Manchester United missed the chance to move up to third in the Premier League on Monday after Michael Obafemi’s 96th-minute equaliser earned Southampton a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in the latest twist in the race for a place in next season’s Champions League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were unable to take advantage of weekend defeats for Chelsea and Leicester to remain in fifth. United had become the first side in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a three-goal margin, but there was no cruise for the Red Devils this time even after they responded to Stuart Armstrong’s early opener.
Two goals in as many minutes from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial turned the game around, but United were caught out by a corner deep into stoppage time when substitute Obafemi turned home Jan Bednarek’s flick on.
“It’s the worst time to concede a goal but it happens in football. You have to be strong and take it,” said United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“We’ve won so many games that way ourselves but it’s all part of the learning for this team.”
Manchester City’s victory over UEFA in the Court of Arbitration for Sport earlier on Monday upped the pressure on United to continue their impressive form with only a place in the top four now good enough for Champions League qualification.
Solskjaer will still be confident of achieving that goal as his side have closed an eight-point gap on Leicester, who they face on the final day of the season, since the Premier League’s restart.
But two dropped points were a reminder that United are far from the finished article if they aspire to challenge Liverpool and Manchester City for the title next season.
“We didn’t deserve three points today,” admitted Solskjaer. “We never got the rhythm in our passing today, especially after 2-1.”
A 17-match unbeaten run looked in danger early as Southampton — who have been in impressive form themselves — were rewarded for a bright start at Old Trafford.
‘Brave’ Saints snatch point
Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side remain in 12th, but have lost just once in six games since the restart.
“We are becoming more brave,” said Hassenhuttl. “You can feel the guys really enjoy what they are doing.”
Paul Pogba’s return from injury has played a big part in United’s free-scoring run, but the Frenchman was at fault for the opening goal as he was caught in possession by Danny Ings.
Redmond then crossed for the unmarked Armstrong at the back post and the Scottish international took a touch before flashing a shot past David De Gea.
United have now scored 16 goals in their last five league games to close the gap on Chelsea and Leicester in the top four race.
That firepower was in evidence as the game was turned on its head within two minutes as Martial showed great strength and touch to tee up Rashford to slot home his 21st goal of the season.
Both Rashford and Martial are enjoying their best ever scoring seasons and moments later it was the Frenchman’s turn to score his 21st of the campaign as he powered past Kyle Walker-Peters before lashing a shot past Alex McCarthy for his 50th Premier League goal.
Southampton were lucky to get into half-time with 11 men on the field as Oriol Romeu somehow escaped sanction despite a VAR review for a dangerous lunge on Mason Greenwood.
United never got going in the same fashion after the break and were given a warning five minutes from time when De Gea produced a stunning save to turn Redmond’s effort over to bounce back from a couple of errors leading to goals in recent weeks.
The hosts were left down to 10 men for the final few minutes as Brandon Williams was taken off with a head injury after Solskjaer had used his allocated three stoppages to make substitutions.
And they were caught out as Obafemi was in the right place to claim a point for Southampton.
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