For Southampton, the glum feeling which followed their 9-0 humiliation at the hands of Manchester United will have been a familiar one. After all, it’s just 18 months since they were slapped with the same scoreline against Leicester City at St Mary’s – a result which left manager Ralph Hasenhüttl clinging on to his job for dear life.
This time, there is unlikely to be the same pressure on the Saints boss. It was a night to forget for Southampton at Old Trafford, but the tone was set after just two minutes when young Southampton debutant Alex Jankewitz was sent off for a terrible challenge on Scott McTominay. After that, Manchester United smelled blood, and goal followed goal on a dismal night for Southampton.
It’s difficult to know how much to draw from the game from a Southampton point of view. When they lost 9-0 to Leicester, it felt like more of a hammer blow, and you could sense a hangover from that match in the weeks that followed. This time, perhaps there is less of a shock about it all. Manchester United are challenging for the title and Southampton’s recent form has seen them slip into mid-table. Throw in two red cards and a whole lot of bad luck and you have the recipe for a troubling evening.
Perhaps more worrying is that the Leicester game has now proved not to have been a one-off. You can often dismiss a result like that as a freak result – a flash in the pan – but the fact that Southampton have conceded nine for the second time under Hasenhüttl shows that perhaps the team is lacking something when it comes to digging in and limiting damage when the odds on the English Premier League are stacked against them.
This season had started with great promise for the Saints. At one point they were hovering in and around the top four, and it was looking like a great campaign was on the cards for the team from the south coast. But a run of four successive defeats since they beat champions Liverpool in January has seen them slide down the table, and after their mauling in Manchester they are now in the bottom half.
Once again, Hasenhüttl has the unenviable job of rallying his troops after a 9-0 demolition job. You feel that this one will not have as damaging an effect on the players as the Leicester result. They’ve proven before that they can put this kind of setback behind them and move forward. The best thing Southampton can do is learn from their mistakes and kick on towards better times. Four league defeats on the spin with just one goal scored is a worrying record, and they’ll want to stop the rot to avoid falling into the lowest reaches of the Premier League table.
The worst thing about the Old Trafford humbling was that it seemed that from an early stage, Southampton had simply given up. The Jankewitz red card was an act of stupidity from a youngster, but throwing in the towel and failing to mount any kind of resistance is a failing which lies at the feet of the entire team and the manager. It’s time to buck up their ideas once again.