United started the game well, dictating play and controlling the ball with composure, but once they conceded to Rickie Lambert’s header a quarter of an hour into the first half, their passing game disintegrated and the deficiencies in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were exposed. This United team has issues at the back in addition to the centre of midfield, which were highlighted by an average Southampton line-up.
Sunday’s fixture was the first time that Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic had lined up together since last December, and there was rustiness in the partnership that requires attention. This contributed to the full backs being caught out of position for both of the Saints’ headed goals, and highlighted another issue that is affecting United at the back.
Rafael da Silva is being given the opportunity to stake a claim to the right-back spot in the absence of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, and is showing promise. However, he needs to improve positionally, which he will be able to do alongside the accomplished pairing of Ferdinand and Vidic if they can regain their form of previous seasons.
Patrice Evra meanwhile is showing signs for concern, and struggled at times yesterday against Jason Puncheon. Despite an excellent last ditch tackle on Adam Lallana, the 31-year-old looked vulnerable, and some of United’s supporters, despite a deep affection for a player that has fully invested in the club’s history, fear that his powers have been on the decline for some time. Alexander B