After a dramatic late victory against Blackpool in the week, United travelled to St Mary’s for the second time in recent years for what they hoped would be a more straightforward encounter against the League one side, having secured a 3-0 win over the Saints in 2009. United have struggled in the cup in recent years however, having not won the competition since 2005, and Ferguson has recently spoken out about how he wants to rectify this record especially after last seasons embarrassing defeat to Leeds. However, Fergie continued with his policy of using his ‘second string’ players in the cup competitions, as a weakened United side took the field including new signing Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard. Nevertheless, players with the experience and quality of Anderson and Scholes gave the side enough about them on paper to give the travelling reds confidence.
However any pre match expectations of an easy United victory were quickly banished, as Southampton boied by their vocal home support started very brightly, not allowing Fergie’s side any time to settle into the game. United’s 3 man midfield were hopelessly overrun in a dire 45 minutes from the reds, with the much maligned Darron Gibson again having an afternoon to forget along with many others. United target Alex Chamberlain was particularly impressive for the Saints, picking the ball up from deep in midfield, and with equal comfort carrying the ball at pace, or spraying it out wide. A poor half was compounded on the brink of half time, as Jonny Evans was caught out by a bouncing throw in, which Richard Chaplow capitalised upon by smashing home into the roof of the net past bewildered debutant Lindegaard.
In his post match press conference Ferguson admitted to a tactical faux pas in the first half, as once again an overly cautious formation choice worked against United away from home which has often been the case this season. It took until the hour mark for this to be rectified, as Nani and Giggs were introduced to provide the much needed width that had been glaringly missing in the first half. Just 5 minutes later United were level, after a good cross from the right by Obertan, Michael Owen popped up to head home from ten yards to the delight of the travelling away support. United never looked back, growing in confidence as the match progressed with Giggs and Scholes pulling the strings from the centre of midfield. Southampton’s belief began to wave as United pressure grew, and 15 minutes before time it eventually told, as Giggs played in Chicharito who calmly slotted home off the post to send United through to the next round. A 15 minute rendition of Viva Ronaldo greeted the United winner, as those travelling from afar were keen to enjoy themselves on a rare away day with a large allocation!
For the second time this week United escape with the victory after a fairly lacklustre performance, and although winning is crucial at this stage of the season, our reliance on the performances of players such as Giggs and Scholes are becoming a worry for the long term future of the club. United will now face non league Crawley Town in the 5th round, a tie we will expect to win and progress to the quarter finals and hopefully beyond.