Southampton 1-1 Manchester United: Mata free kick earns point in Giggs' final game as temporary manager

Juan Mata earned a point for Manchester United against Southampton as Ryan Giggs signed off as stand-in manager.

The Red Devils are set to appoint Louis van Gaal as David Moyes’ full-time successor and Giggs departs with two wins, a draw and a defeat from his four games at the helm.

By George Ankers

Manchester United’s hopes of sneaking into the Europa League came to nothing as they deservedly shared the points with Southampton after an enjoyable encounter at St Mary’s Stadium.

The Saints were by far the better team in the first half, their strong midfield utterly dominating possession, and led through Rickie Lambert, who shot confidently past David de Gea under the eye of attending England manager Roy Hodgson.

Ryan Giggs’s introduction of Michael Carrick at half-time evened up the midfield battle, however, and the Red Devils equalised through Juan Mata’s precise free kick not long after the break. From then on, the two defences stood firm, with Dejan Lovren particularly impressive.

It ends a record-breaking season for both teams – one in a good way, the other very bad indeed – but both will leave the stadium feeling optimistic about the future.

Rickie Lambert scored the opener following a bright opening from the home side, the England hopeful keeping his cool to slot past David De Gea despite protests from the visitors that he illegally clashed with Nemanja Vidic.

Vidic, making his final United appearance, suffered a bloodied mouth in the build-up to the goal but almost put his side ahead upon his return to the pitch only for his header to go inches wide.

The Serb was then booked for preventing Adam Lallana from reaching a through ball, before the Saints attacker almost provided the second goal of the afternoon. The 25-year-old, who should be named in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad on Monday, sent a low cross fizzing along the six-yard line but just out of the reach of Steven Davis.

Mata levelled for United in the 54th minute with a stunning free kick which got up and over the wall, down under the crossbar and left Artur Boruc rooted to the spot.

Danny Welbeck almost made it 2-1 moments later, but his header from Adnan Januzaj’s cross went over the bar.

Linked with a summer move to Liverpool,  Lallana walked off the St Mary’s pitch for perhaps the final time as a Southampton player when he was replaced by James Ward-Prowse with just over 20 minutes remaining.

More to follow…

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