Lukaku’s goal over Southampton equalizes Louis Saha’s club record.


    Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal midway through the first half as Jose Mourinho’s side kept pace with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.

    From Lukaku’s match-winning contribution to Rashford’s return to the flank, here are four talking points from the game.

    Another game, another goal for Lukaku. The Belgian struck the winner from close range after overpowering Southampton defender Wesley Hoedt. Lukaku has now scored six times in his first six Premier League appearances for United – equalling Louis Saha’s club record.

    The goal was well-taken and his all-round performance was just as impressive. Lukaku’s pace and power caused problems for Southampton from start to finish, and his hold-up play was effective too. Lukaku linked up well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and might have had an assist if it wasn’t for Ander Herrera’s wayward finishing.

    United signed Lukaku with a view to improving their patchy record against Premier League sides outside of the top seven. Having already netted against West Ham, Swansea, Stoke and Southampton, it appears he is having the desired effect.

    This was Manchester United’s fifth clean sheet in six Premier League games and it owed a lot to Phil Jones and Eric Bailly. The duo only played five games together last season, but they have formed a solid partnership at the heart of Jose Mourinho’s defence in the new campaign.

    Bailly set the tone with a superb covering tackle to prevent a Southampton counter-attack in the opening minutes, but the best moments belonged to Jones. There was the superb recovery to block a Dusan Tadic cut-back midway through the second half, and soon after that he prevented Shane Long from equalising with a crucial clearing header from Ryan Bertrand’s delivery.

    Gareth Southgate raised a few eyebrows when he recently described the 25-year-old as England’s best defender, but this performance certainly strengthened his case. The stats showed he made more clearances than any other player (10) and won all nine of his duels at St Mary’s. Alongside Bailly, he was vital in preserving United’s lead.

    Southampton’s struggles in front of goal continued. They have now failed to find the net in eight of their last nine home games in all competitions. This season, they have only scored three times in seven games in all competitions.

    It’s a big issue for Mauricio Pellegrino, who started with Shane Long as his lone striker against United. The Irishman did not muster a single shot on target, with substitutes Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin faring no better. Southampton have a relatively kind run of fixtures coming up, but they need to find their shooting boots as soon as possible.

    Marcus Rashford enjoyed a rare opportunity to lead the line against Burton Albion in midweek, scoring twice and providing a reminder of what he can offer in the position, but he was back on the left flank as Lukaku took centre stage at St Mary’s.

    Rashford didn’t get too many opportunities to attack Southampton, who enjoyed over 60 per cent of the possession, but his pace caused them problems on the counter-attack and he was inches away from scoring with a well-struck free kick in the first half.

    His manager will have been even more impressed by his defensive contribution. The 19-year-old diligently tracked back to help out left-back Ashley Young, on one occasion preventing a Bertrand cross with an impressive slide tackle near his own byline. Rashford might be more effective through the middle, but his versatility is valuable to Mourinho.