Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says his players “will put it right” after they missed a chance to climb into the Premier League’s top four by conceding an injury-time equaliser against Southampton.
United led 2-1 for 73 minutes before substitute Michael Obafemi scored in the 96th minute, bundling in a set-piece at the back post after it had been flicked on by Jan Bednarek.
Stuart Armstrong had given Southampton a 12th-minute lead, but Anthony Martial set up Marcus Rashford to equalise before firing a superb second goal for United.
Solskjaer’s side were on course to leapfrog top-four rivals Chelsea and Leicester – who both suffered defeats over the weekend – and move up to third but they remain fifth with three games left in the chase for Champions League qualification.
“The mentality has been brilliant. We have had a few setbacks this season. This is another challenge for us,” said Solskjaer.
“I am very confident in [the players’] mentality. I’m disappointed of course, but you have to take the disappointments as well as the positives. We have learned a hard lesson. We will put it right. I trust the boys in that respect.”
Armstrong had opened the scoring for Southampton, following Paul Pogba’s mistake, and after fighting back to draw, the visitors now sit five points outside of the top 10 and level on points with Everton.
Despite United’s setback, they will still qualify for the Champions League if they win their last three games, as they travel to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester on the final day of the season.
Solskjaer was unhappy with what he called a “nasty” first-half challenge by Oriol Romeu on Mason Greenwood, for which the Southampton midfielder went unpunished after a video assistant referee review.
“I know my ankle wouldn’t take that challenge,” Solskjaer said. “It was a nasty one but we have said enough about VAR.”
Man Utd chained to fifth spot
United’s fate remains in their own hands.
But the late goal from Obafemi came as a blow for the Red Devils, who had been the better side for most of the match.
They had chances to extend their lead at 2-1 – Martial proving a constant threat throughout, while Rashford came close with a driven effort from long range after having a goal ruled out for offside in the first half.
But the Saints never looked out of it and the clinical edge United had shown coming into this match – they had scored 15 goals in their five previous games – seemed to evade them in the second half when Rashford’s effort was blocked on the line by a sliding Ryan Bertrand.
There will be concern for Solskjaer over Luke Shaw, who hobbled off in the second half after he seemed to twist his ankle, before Brandon Williams took a heavy blow to the head.
However, United’s hopes of Champions League football are still very much alive.
Saints’ bright form continues
Southampton were full of confidence heading to Old Trafford, having lost just one of their past five matches and seen off Manchester City earlier this month.
They showed that in the opening stages – Bertrand and Kyle Walker-Peters getting in behind the United defence before Nathan Redmond’s cross to Armstrong was fired into the far corner for the opening goal.
But United’s in-form attackers were quick to respond – Martial’s neat first touch, smart turn and determined poke through finding Rashford unmarked in the box for the equaliser before he cut inside of Walker-Peters with ease and smashed it beyond Alex McCarthy for their second.
That goal looked set to be the winner as Rashford and Martial continued to threaten and Southampton remained in the game thanks to Bertrand’s stunning block in the six-yard area.
But as the game went on, Southampton sensed there was an opportunity – Redmond drew a save from David de Gea with five minutes of normal time remaining before Bednarek’s flick wasn’t dealt with by United and Obafemi pushed the ball over the line, having been on the pitch for less than 10 minutes.
Man of the match – Anthony Martial
‘The guys deserved the point’ – what they said
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, speaking to Sky Sports: “If you stop being brave, stop being on the front foot, then you have problems against one-on-one quality.
“It was a very strong start from my side. We scored and we were really aggressive.
“We gave two chances away but then just before half-time we got back to our game and then I could feel we were better. We had good possession and good balance and had good chances in the second half. The guys really deserved the point, I think.”