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Manchester United held for third game in a row

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Manchester United will end 2017 occupying third place in the Premier League table, having been held to a 0-0 stalemate by Southampton at Old Trafford this evening.

A third draw in succession for the Red Devils over the festive period places them 14 points adrift of leaders Manchester City, who have a game in hand still to play, and now one behind Chelsea in second.

United should have snatched a much-needed victory in the final 10 minutes but Nemanja Matic’s goalbound effort was pounced on by Paul Pogba in an offside position, meaning that the points were shared.

Romelu Lukaku pictured after missing a header during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Southampton on December 30, 2017© Offside

Prior to being taken off with a facial injury, Romelu Lukaku squandered a glorious chance by heading clean over the crossbar when picked out 10 yards from goal.

David de Gea was then required at the other end to thwart James Ward-Prowse, who also found the target later in the half with a curled free kick from a tight angle.

Romelu Lukaku is stretchered off during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Southampton on December 30, 2017© Offside

In-between those two shots, United were dealt that early blow of losing Lukaku following a clash of heads with Wesley Hoedt, likely ruling him out of the New Year’s Day return to former club Everton.

Marcus Rashford was summoned from the bench and made a good impact, sparking a quick counter-attack that disappointingly ended with Henrikh Mkhitaryan – handed a first league start in close to two months – miscuing the subsequent cross.

Jose Mourinho reacts as Mauricio Pellegrino watches on during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Southampton on December 30, 2017© SilverHub

Southampton, winners here on two of their last three visits prior to today, could not make the most of their big chance of the first half as Hoedt failed to find the target with his close-range header.

Juan Mata tested Alex McCarthy down low on a rare start for the Saints stopper, while Matic also had a tamely hit shot kept out.

The ball appears to hit the arm of Maya Yoshida during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Southampton on December 30, 2017© Offside

United should have taken a lead into the break, though, as soon after having a penalty shout rejected through a clear Maya Yoshida handball, a cross came into the box for Jesse Lingard to glance wide unmarked.

Despite being horribly out of form heading into this final match of 2017, Southampton were looking bright early in the second half and were so nearly in front when Shane Long got ahead of Matic.

Paul Pogba and Oriol Romeu in action during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Southampton on December 30, 2017© SilverHub

The shot was on target but De Gea flicked out a leg and helped the ball over the crossbar, though United’s frustration was clear to see as Ashley Young appeared to elbow Dusan Tadic in the chest.

Mkhitaryan had a weak shot kept out by McCarthy before being replaced by Anthony Martial, and then came a huge moment in the match as Matic helped the ball goalwards for Pogba to prod it over the line from less than a yard out.

Juan Mata in action during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Southampton on December 30, 2017© SilverHub

The officials rightly ruled that the Frenchman was offside, but the ball appeared to be creeping past McCarthy without the intervention of Pogba.

That would prove to be the final clear-cut chance of the match, meaning that United are stuck on two wins from their last seven matches in all competitions during a month to forget.

Anthony Martial has been named on the Manchester United bench for the Premier League clash with Southampton.

The Frenchman returned to training on Thursday and despite being a doubt for the Saints clash, is fit enough to be among Saturday’s substitutes.

United boss Jose Mourinho has made three changes to his starting XI after the 2-2 draw with Burnley.

Victor Lindelof is in for Marcos Rojo, Jesse Lingard replaces Marcus Rashford, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan makes his first start since November in place of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is not in the squad.

Matteo Darmian is also not in the Red Devils’ matchday squad, while Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Eric Bailly are all long-term absentees.

Mauricio Pellegrino has made four changes as goalkeeper Fraser Forster has been replaced by Alex McCarthy.

Upfield, Sam McQueen replaces Matt Targett, Dusan Tadic is back for Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse replaces Mario Lemina.

Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk will join Liverpool on January 1 and so does not feature at Old Trafford.

Charlie Austin is unavailable as he must serve the second of his three-match ban for violent conduct, as well as being sidelined by a hamstring injury.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Matic, Pogba; Mata, Lingard, Mkhitaryan (Martial 65′); Lukaku (Rashford 14′)

Southampton (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Stephens, Yoshida, Hoedt, McQueen; Romeu, Hojbjerg; Tadic (Lemina 82′), Ward-Prowse, Boufal (Redmond 85′); Long (Gabbiadini 80′)

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