Lukaku head injury gives Manchester United cause for concern
Even as Manchester United stuttered again and dropped more points, perhaps the pivotal moment did not involve shots or saves.
It came eight minutes in and resulted in the departure of Jose Mourinho’s No 9.
Romelu Lukaku was taken off after a clash of heads with Wesley Hoedt, exiting on a stretcher.
United’s medical staff decided Lukaku did not need to go to hospital, which was an encouraging sign in itself but, a day after Mourinho had said he could not rest Lukaku, he was forced to play without him.
And for how long?
Even with his recent barren spell, he has still scored 15 goals. He was a constant. Mourinho’s squad was already stretched, even if the other absences are more in defence and midfield.
Without him, United drew a third consecutive game.
Lukaku could have shaped the scoreline in his cameo. United were behind after three minutes on Boxing Day.
They ought to have been ahead at the same stage four days later.
Juan Mata picked out Lukaku with an inviting cross, but the striker headed over the bar.
Marcus Rashford came on. Henrikh Mkhitaryan had already come in from the cold, though a couple of misplaced crosses suggested he may return there after a surprise start.
He at least found his range with a centre that Jesse Lingard headed just wide.
Before then, United had been denied a penalty when Maya Yoshida stuck out an arm to block as Lingard tried to flick the ball past him.
The officials denied them again when an offside Paul Pogba had a winner chalked off.
It felt needless as Anthony Martial’s shot might have been going in before Pogba applied the final touch.
They were facing a Southampton side with a difference, with Fraser Forster dropped after his latest wretched display against Tottenham.
His replacement Alex McCarthy proved reliable, making a fine save from Mata.
At the other end, once again United could be grateful for the brilliance of David de Gea.
The Spaniard displayed his athleticism to claw away a low shot and then a curling free kick from James Ward-Prowse.
The set-piece specialist also took the corner that Hoedt met with a free header.
He could have scored. He should have hit the target. He did neither.
Then, from Ward-Prowse’s low cross, Shane Long had the opportunity to score his first goal for 322 days.
But for a fine save from De Gea, he would have done.
United’s medical staff decided Lukaku did not need to go to the hospital
Romelu Lukaku was carried off on a stretcher after clashing heads with Southampton’s Wesley Hoedt