Just a day after being accused of being “too nice” by their manager, Manchester United produced the perfect answer, ruthlessly putting nine-man Southampton to the sword at Old Trafford on Tuesday night. The Red Devils racked up a Premier League record-equalling nine goal win with four in the first half and five in the second.
It was brutal, United making best use of debutant Alexandre Jankewitz’s red card after just 82 seconds. And it was for much of a non-contest like shooting fish in a barrel.
But it was just what Solskjaer was looking for from a side who had temporarily lost their hold on a winning thread which had taken them to the top of the table.
Goals from Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and an own goal from Jan Bednarek gave them a 4-0 first-half lead.
The goals had started on 25 minutes but the invitation to a drubbing was delivered when debutant Alexandre Jankewitz was given his marching orders after just 82 seconds.
Victory gave United a first league double over Southampton since 2012-13 and moved them level on points at the top with neighbours Manchester City who play Burnley tonight.
Solskjaer had called on his players to show a little more bite, accusing them of being too accepting when fortune turned against them in the loss to Sheffield United.
After a draw against Arsenal he reacted by dropping Paul Pogba and injecting Mason Greenwood’s threat on the right.
In contrast, Ralph Hassenhuttl was forced to root down the back of the sofa in search of fit players he may have forgotten about with Theo Walcott, Ibrahima Diallo and Oriol Romeu joining an already siginificant list of walking wounded.
Kayne Ramsay and Jankewitz, 20 and 19 respectively, were making their second and first league starts for the Saints.
The latter’s night lasted precisely one challenge and one minute and 22 seconds after a rash, high challenge which his studs raked Scott McTominay’s left thigh near the halfway line.
On this occasion there was no need for United to show their streetwise or, for that matter, McTominay’s anguished cry for emphasis, genuine though it was.
There did not look to be any malice in the challenge – certainly not as much as in the look Hassenhuttl delivered in the dugout – but Mike Dean had no hesitation in producing red.
Steven Gerrard (37 seconds), David Kitson (38) and Keith Gillespie’s (an impressive 12 seconds) have been sent off quicker in Premier League history.
But only Tim Flowers (at 72 seconds for Blackburn against Leeds in 1995) has been sent off quicker than the unfortunate Jankewitz after starting.
If facing 87 minutes a man down put the Saints on the back foot, United put them on their backsides after 17 minutes and to add insult to injury it was an Southampton old boy who provided the assist.
Marcus Rashford had chased a ball over Kayne Rasmay in the right channel and laid it back to Luke Shaw who crossed to the right side of the six yard area.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka met it on the half volley bundling the ball home.
A second arrived on 25 minutes, Shaw again involved in the build up with Greenwood assisting Rashford to slam home from 12 yards.
And if the game was not already over by then, Bednarek turned in Bruno Fernandes’s heavy low cross from the right five yards out to make it three.
Southampton might have given themselves a glimmer of hope after United’s second goal, James Ward-Prowse firing a free kick from the edge of the area which David De Gea did well to tip over.
But Shaw again turned provider on 39 minutes, this time lofting a cross which Cavani nodded home.
If Southampton needed any confirmation it was not their night it came on 54 minutes when Che Adams fired in from the angle after Fred failed to clear. VAR showed a millimetre of knee had strayed offside.
Adams later missed a guilt-edged chance to reduce the arrears at 6-0, after Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay had added to the hosts’ advantage.
But United were far from done and the night only got worse, Southampton losing a second player – like Arsenal earlier in the evening – when Bednarek was adjudged to have fouled Martial.
Fernandes stepped up to score from the penalty spot before Martial grabbed his second and fellow substitute Daniel James added a ninth deep into stoppage time.
The result leaves the Saints again licking their wounds from a nine-goal thrashing, having lost by the same scoreline against Leicester last term, while United’s hopes of a title charge have been injected with fresh belief.
Published at Tue, 02 Feb 2021 22:17:00 +0000