Monday, 5 January 2009

Strolling United give sorry Saints painful reminder of fall from grace

The spectacular fall from grace of Southampton Football Club became known to the nation yesterday as Jan Poortvliet’s young side was put to the sword by a rampant Manchester United in the F.A Cup. The attention garnered by the match, previously a twice a season standard, was another painful reminder of just how far the club has fallen in recent times.

Saints 0 – Man Utd 3

The result came as a surprise to no one, with United fielding a team that included Berbatov, Giggs and Carrick and still leaving Rooney on the bench and Ronaldo out. Though Saints started brightly, they never threatened and there was only a momentary sense of anti-climax when Danny Wellbeck’s rebound opened the scoring from an awfully-marked corner. Any hopes of a comeback were well and truly killed off ten minutes before the interval when Matt Paterson was sent off for a wild and unnecessarily high lunge on Vidic. Though a sense of injustice pervaded St Marys, television replays showed the challenge to be dangerous and worthy of red in today’s climate. Blame must lie with the manager for handing the inexperienced player only his second start in such a high-profile fixture. Saints fans had fair reason for uproar after the interval, however, as a penalty was wrongly awarded to visitors even though Nani’s free kick struck McGoldick’s head and not his arm. Gibson’s third was inevitable; if United had tried, they could have had five more.

Though many, including Jan Poortvliet, have attempted to pin this defeat on the referee, Saints only ever had minimal hopes of success in this game. It is fair to say that Mike Riley’s one-sided performance snuffed out that slender chance, but United won without moving out of second gear. The sad fact is that Saints used to make United sweat; we spent most of the Premiership years as their number one bogey team. There was always a gulf in class, but we had a team spirit and special players that could turn matches. Now, under a struggling Dutch set-up, the club stares into the abyss of League One and an expanding gulf in class. The weakness of our squad of fledglings was nakedly exposed to the nation yesterday. It seems our troubles only continue to deepen; Saints fans must pray for a miracle in 2009.

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