Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United to a 1-0 win over Southampton as Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands at St Mary’s on Saturday.
Lukaku scored the only goal of the game in the first half, but United had to survive a late barrage of Southampton pressure that played a role in Mourinho’s dismissal.
It was an indication of the visitors’ anxiety that United boss Mourinho was dismissed by referee Craig Pawson in stoppage-time, apparently for encroaching onto the pitch during a Southampton attack.
Here’s a closer look at Lukaku’s performance.
Goals – 1
Assists – 0
Shots – 3
Dribbles – 2
Passes – 19
Key Passes – 2
Pass Accuracy – 73%
Touches – 42
Aerial duels – 50%
Two chances, one goal. It was an efficient performance from the Belgian striker, and in a game where Manchester United were increasingly under pressure, especially in a second half which Southampton dominated, his goal proved vital.
He made his presence felt on the defensive end and was involved in United’s two best chances in the second half – one of which, admittedly, he should have scored, or found Henrikh Mkhitaryan with a pass for an easy finish.
Lukaku should also have had an assist, as Ander Herrera blazed over from United’s other golden opportunity to put the game to bed.
20th minute: A vintage Lukaku goal. The striker rose above his marker to head a wonderful Ashley Young cross, and although Southampton keeper Fraser Forster made a solid point-blank save, the rebound came straight back to Lukaku, who wasn’t going to miss from close range.
65th minute: United’s counter-attack saw Mkhitaryan set up Lukaku and he should have made it 2-0. Mkhitaryan was probably in a better position to score, and Lukaku could have opted to play a return ball, but inside the box, a striker is well within his rights to shoot. Lukaku’s shot, however, was hit straight at Forster’s feet rather than into the back of the net.
79th minute: Another United counter and yet again, Lukaku was at the heart of it. He beat the Southampton defence on the left wing before finding Herrera with a smart reverse pass. The Spaniard was in acres of space inside the home side’s box, but his shot went over the bar, denying Lukaku an assist.
Our verdict: 7/10
It wasn’t Lukaku’s best performance, nor was it United’s best. But this is the sort of game Jose Mourinho’s side need to win, and the 24-year-old ensured they did.
He got a goal, held up the ball well, created chances, and helped out defensively. Yes, he should have scored a second, but in the end United came away with a win that was largely down to Lukaku’s play.