Erik ten Hag stressed the need for his side to be at their best as the Red Devils returned to Premier League duty for the first time since last weekend’s historic 7-0 shellacking at rivals Liverpool.
United showed impressive character to bounce back and beat Real Betis on Thursday and again produced a display of strength to draw 0-0 with Southampton after Casemiro’s second sending-off of the season.
The Brazil international looked gutted when referee Anthony Taylor brandished a straight red in the 34th minute after the VAR advised him to review the challenge on Carlos Alcaraz on the pitchside monitor.
United felt aggrieved by that decision, just as they did when penalty appeals were rejected before the break.
Saints’ performance belied their wretched season to date and Aaron Wan-Bissaka cleared off the line shortly after the break, with James Ward-Prowse seeing a free-kick graze the bar.
David De Gea and Gavin Bazunu produced outstanding saves across this scoreless encounter, including the latter tipping a Bruno Fernandes shot onto the post before Kyle Walker-Peters hit the woodwork at the other end.
United’s final Premier League match of the month ended in a hard-fought point, which represented a positive start to a key week as Ruben Selles’ Saints battle for survival.
Saints pressed well from the outset and looked solid until Fernandes unlocked the backline in the 16th minute, putting through Marcus Rashford to get away a low shot that Bazunu saved well low to his left.
The Saints goalkeeper darted off his line to frustrate the forward again soon after, before De Gea produced a key save at the other end after Theo Walcott met a floated Romain Perraud cross with a six-yard header.
Kamaldeen Sulemana was denied by a Raphael Varane block as United were made uncomfortable before being hit by a 34th-minute blow.
Casemiro was initially booked for a challenge on Alcaraz that ended with his right foot on the midfielder’s shin, only for VAR Andre Marriner to advise Taylor to watch the monitor.
Upon review, the referee handed out a straight red card, to the emotional-looking United midfielder’s disbelief.
Free-kick specialist Ward-Prowse saw the resulting set piece ricochet off the wall and just wide – a moment that seemed to light a fire under United.
Bazunu brilliantly prevented Varane turning in a Fernandes free-kick before the United skipper led angry appeals for a penalty having claimed Walker-Peters had fouled him in the box.
Both referee and VAR were having none of that, so too the claims for handball against Armel Bella-Kotchap.
Boos greeted the half-time whistle as De Gea chuntered in referee Taylor’s ear.
The break took the sting out of the Old Trafford fury and Saints went close to a 49th-minute opener. Walker-Peters darted past Rashford and sent a driven cross that substitute Scott McTominay deflected towards his own goal, with Wan-Bissaka getting back to hack off the line.
Southampton again went close in the 54th minute. Fernandes was adjudged to have fouled the impressive Romeo Lavia and Ward-Prowse’s free-kick grazed the top of the bar.
A point on the road. A whisker away from all three.
Our verdict on a breathless encounter at Old Trafford:
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) March 12, 2023
The visitors continued to threaten from dead balls and open play, with De Gea pulling of a second big save of the day in the 64th minute.
Wan-Bissaka’s poor pass was cut out and Walcott was racing through. Lisandro Martinez was on his tail and the veteran slowed before getting away a shot that De Gea acrobatically pushed wide.
Not to be outdone, soon Bazunu pulled off an even better stop.
Fernandes was allowed to get away a rasping effort from the edge of the box and half the ground thought it was in, only for a brilliant fingertip save to take it onto the post and across the face of goal.
The woodwork was rattled at the other end moments later as Walker-Peters took aim with a thumping drive off the far post.
Southampton had further chances that they failed to take while Rashford saw penalty appeals rejected and Alejandro Garnacho writhed in pain after a Walker-Peters challenge on him in the box as the match wound down.