The defeat at Old Trafford was the club’s record away defeat, with the 9-0 defeat at home to Leicester City the previous season the club’s record home defeat. As a result, how do the Saints bounce back from yet another humbling?
Southampton Lose 9-0 Twice in Two Seasons
Number of Factors Contribute to Harrowing Defeat
Southampton went into the game with United low on confidence and low on players. The Saints had won just one of their last eight in the league and have long found themselves crippled by injuries, with nine first-team players unavailable for the 9-0 hammering.
The club’s transfer business in January provided little in the way of solutions to the threadbare squad. Takumi Minamino was the only player joining Ralph Hassenhuttl’s depleted ranks, arriving on deadline day. Shane Long, Yan Valery, Jake Vokins and Callum Slattery were all allowed to leave on loan, meaning that the squad depth was dented further. This lack of depth, coupled with the incredibly high number of players sidelined, certainly hasn’t helped Saints after a very positive start to the season.
With the absence of so many first-team players, the Austrian was inevitably forced into changes. Young defender Kayne Ramsey came in at right-back for his first appearance of the season and was always likely to struggle. James Ward-Prowse returned to centre midfield after featuring at right-back in the previous defeat 1-0 to Aston Villa.
However, his partner was an unfamiliar one in 19-year-old full debutant Alex Jankewitz. In fact, he would remain an unfamiliar partner, as the Swiss midfielder lasted less than two minutes before seeing red for a reckless challenge on United’s Scott McTominay.
While the lack of depth would always have made this game a challenging one for Southampton, their game plan being torn up in front of them with 88 minutes remaining made it an almost impossible task. The south coast side managed to hold the fort for just 16 minutes before the floodgates opened. Aaron Wan-Bissaka opened the scoring, and by 39 minutes Edinson Cavani had added a fourth for the Red Devils.
Che Adams thought he had scored a consolation goal to make it 4-1, but another tight VAR call did not work in his side’s favour. In the grand scheme of things, though, it did not matter.
Goals from Anthony Martial, McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial followed before Southampton fans’ worst fears were confirmed by Dan James in the 93rd minute – a second 9-0 defeat in as many seasons.
How Southampton Turn it Around From Another 9-0
Many thought Hassenhuttl would walk away in the aftermath of the defeat, but the Southampton boss was quick to quash this. He could have walked away after the first 9-0 defeat to Leicester, but he didn’t, in part owing to a phone call from Sir Alex Ferguson. The Austrian is not a quitter and can be proud of the way he turned around his side’s fortunes following the club’s heaviest ever defeat in that infamous night at St Mary’s.
There should be no kneejerk reaction to this at board level either. Southampton had started the season very strongly, winning five of their first seven games prior to being struck by something of an injury crisis.
The Saints would have had eyes on Europe at the start of the season, but they may have to rethink their targets. A top ten finish should not be an unrealistic goal despite the defeat to United, and this would reflect a solid season for the St Mary’s outfit. Hassenhuttl is keen to continue his work with the side and reflected to BBC Sport, saying: “It hurts more to have this result again. But the team is a different one now and we’ve had a good season so far. Let’s see how the season ends.”.
Hassenhuttl is a talented and hungry manager, and his Southampton side have been a reflection of his high-energy and passionate approach for large parts of this season. The Austrian simply must stay. He has turned it around before, and he is capable of doing so again. The man himself sounds determined to come back swinging, telling Southampton’s website: “We have this experience before in the Premier League. We’ve stood up once, we’ll stand up again.”
Southampton Board Must Learn Lessons
One thing that you certainly cannot accuse the Southampton board of is being overambitious. However, after years of poor recruitment and gambles with signings, the club has become increasingly scrupulous with their funds. The Saints were crying out for reinforcements in the January transfer window, particularly in defence, and yet they ended the window with only Minamino coming in.
It is too late to salvage this season through signings, with the transfer window having closed on February 1, so the club’s fans will have to wait until the summer to see if the board have taken on board their obvious shortcomings.
The good news for Southampton is that games do come thick and fast in the Premier League. As a result, they have a chance to go some way to repairing the damage against Newcastle United on Saturday. However, injuries may once more hinder their chances, and the suspension to Jan Bednarek leaves them with one available central defender in Jack Stephens.
Despite the defeat, Southampton are still in 12th position in the Premier League table, and after a number of seasons battling relegation, this should be considered a positive. The table is congested enough that one or two wins can see them soon climb the table and back into the top half. Football changes fast, and despite the dismal performance, Southampton fans should try to remain positive.
Embed from Getty Images