Saints ended the 2013/14 season with a 1-1 draw against Manchester United at St Mary’s.
The goals came in either half, with Mauricio Pochettino’s men taking a deserved half-time lead, with Rickie Lambert’s calmly taken goal separating the two teams at the interval.
Lambert collected Steven Davis’s pass to stroke the ball into the near corner of David De Gea’s net to reward a strong opening 45 minutes by the home side.
With the introduction of Michael Carrick in midfield, a more solid United began the second half in much better shape, and were rewarded for their endeavour when Juan Mata clipped home a wonderful free-kick to level the scores on 55 minutes.
The match was more evenly contested from there, with a few bookings dished out for both sides, but for once against Southampton, United striker Robin van Persie was kept quiet as the two sides battled it out for the point in the last half hour.
It was a result which confirmed the two teams’ final league positions of seventh and eighth, whilst Saints made it a four matched unbeaten at the end of the campaign.
Lambert had been recalled to the side after fully recovering from a glute injury that saw him miss the start of the win over Swansea. Lambert replaced Sam Gallagher in attack as the only change from the team.
Opponents Manchester United named Nemanja Vidic in their side, with the visitors’ skipper making his final appearance for the Reds before leaving the club at the end of the season.
Saints got the match underway, with Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana taking the first touches of the final game, with the hosts attacking the Northam stand on a bright and breezy afternoon inside St Mary’s.
There was plenty of energy from Pochettino’s men in the opening exchanges which led to the first attack down the left involving Lallana and Luke Shaw. The resulting throw-in found its way to Victor Wanyama, whose speculative effort from distance was gathered by David De Gea.
United’s first venture forward brought them a free-kick when Jack Cork clattered into the marauding Patrice Evra, who had advanced to the edge of the Saints’ area.
Juan Mata’s attempt at goal, however was charged down by Cork on the edge of the four-man defensive wall just inside the area.
Saints assumed control of possession thereafter with a prolonged spell of keep-ball which resulted in a seventh minute shout for a penalty when Shaw’s cross aimed at Lallana, looked as though it struck the arm of Vidic, but referee Mike Dean was unmoved by the appeals from the red shirts around him.
That spell of neat play continued at a pace from the hosts as United couldn’t get close to their opponents. A fine series of passes culminated in another ambitious effort from Wanyama, though the drilled effort towards goal by the Kenyan was wonderfully back-heeled towards goal by Lallana, but sadly straight into De Gea’s path.
The pressure began to tell on the visitors with De Gea slicing a clearance into the path of Steven Davis, who worked the ball out to Lambert, but United managed to regroup in time to defend their lines.
Saints were still harassing United at every opportunity and it almost told again when Vidic slipped to allow Lambert in on the right side of the area, but United’s captain just about recovered in time to prevent the striker from getting a shot at goal.
The fluidity from the hosts showed no signs of slowing down, and on 20 minutes the movement of Lallana saw the skipper get into position to cross for Shaw inside the area, with the youngster going close to his first goal for the club with a header that looped over the bar.
Further neat passing inside United’s half created the chance for Lallana to curl a shot at goal, with the skipper receiving the ball on the back of good work by Lambert and Wanyama, before the skipper aimed for the far corner with a strike that De Gea managed to get his body behind.
The deadlock was finally broken on 28 minutes, with United left reeling as Vidic went to ground after a clash with Lambert, and as play continued, Steven Davis rolled the ball behind Rio Ferdinand and into the path of LAMBERT who kept his composure to beat the advancing De Gea with a strike to the near corner for 1-0.
All of United’s outfield players rushed to surround match official Mike Dean, but there was no changing his mind, as the goal rightly stood to allow Lambert his 13th league strike of the season.
In the next move forward Saints won a corner, and from there they were unfortunate not to find the target again as Lambert received the ball at the far post, only for Chris Smalling to make a crucial block.
Saints midfielder Jack Cork took a booking after fouling Adnan Januzaj on the left touchline. From the resulting free-kick, Vidic headed over the bar.
United started to show signs of life, and on 35 Smalling fired inches wide after getting on the end of Evra’s cross, as Artur Boruc remained untroubled.
Mata then drilled a shot wide before Saints returned to the ascendancy. A swift break involving Lambert and Lallana came to an abrupt end when Vidic hauled down the Saints skipper outside of the area. Vidic was cautioned for the trip, which allowed Lambert the chance to strike at goal, but his effort was held by De Gea.
Januzaj was shown a yellow prior to another good move from the hosts as Lallana’s trickery got him to the byline where he flashed an inviting cross into the six yard box, but unfortunately no red shirt could get on the end of it.
Inside the closing stages of the half Saints pushed on again, with Schneiderlin going close to converting a cross, as the hosts commanded their lead.
The Saints supporters were in fine voice too, asking United whether they would change their kit at half-time, just as they did at the Dell all those years ago, bringing an enjoyable first half to a close.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 1-0 MANCHESTER UNITED
There was one change at the break, with Michael Carrick coming on to replace Shinji Kagawa in United’s midfield as the visitors tried to get a grip on the game through the middle.
Saints looked to pick up from where they left, and they forged an early half chance for themselves when a clearance found its way to Lambert, whose first time strike from distance was saved by De Gea.
United were determined to make a better start this time around though and saw Januzaj and van Persie link up on the right before Shaw brought that move to an end with a strong sliding challenge.
It proved to be a slower opening to the new half however, with many tackles going in and a more patient approach from the hosts as they sought to protect their lead from any early onslaught.
United were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous looking position on 55 minutes when Wanyama was booked for a shove on Welbeck as the striker attempted to close in on goal.
And they levelled the scoring up as van Persie ran over the ball and MATA whipped a stunning dead ball into the top right corner which gave Boruc no chance in the Saints goal.
United almost struck again instantly when Januzaj’s cross headed over by Welbeck in the centre of the area, as the visitors now had their tails up.
With more bite from their opponents, Saints changed things around, with Cork making way for Sam Gallagher as the hosts altered their formation to try and open United out again.
Januzaj went down rather clumsily inside the area under pressure from Shaw, but the United winger’s attempts to win a penalty were turned down.
The contest had stepped up a couple of gears in a short space of time as the ball ran from end-to-end, though Januzaj remained in the spotlight as he went down under a challenge from Shaw which earned the Saints full back a yellow card.
United went close when Smalling’s cross to the far post was headed wide by Darren Fletcher, and then United changed their hand again when van Persie was replaced by Javier Hernandez.
Saints followed suit with a change of their own when Lallana went off to a standing ovation to be replaced by James Ward-Prowse for the final 20 minutes or so.
Saints settled well after the flurry of changes and won another corner for themselves on 72 when Gallagher received Lambert’s pass inside the area, to knock the ball off Vidic.
Wanyama flashed another strike wide as he continued to show his determination for getting his name on the scoresheet.
United threatened when Mata’s clever chip over the backline released Welbeck on goal, but Boruc was off his line quickly to deal with the ball before the England man could get there.
There was a final change from Pochettino as Calum Chambers replaced Luke Shaw for the last ten minutes. Chambers slotted into his accustomed right back role, with Nathaniel Clyne swapping over to the left side for the remainder of the contest.
It was a scrappier affair in the last few minutes with both teams guilty of some wayward passes, though United almost popped up with a late effort on goal when Carrick picked out Welbeck with a raking pass into the area, but Jose Fonte recovered well to deny the frontman.
Antonio Valencia was introduced to the action on 88 minutes in place of Mata, shortly after Lambert had been thwarted from getting in on goal, as the final signs of goalmouth action came and went with no reward.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 1-1 MANCHESTER UNITED
Southampton team: Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw (Calum Chambers 79), Victor Wanyama, Jack Cork (Sam Gallagher 59), Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Adam Lallana (c) (James Ward-Prowse 69), Rickie Lambert
Unused substitutes: Paulo Gazzaniga, Jos Hooiveld, Guly do Prado, Harrison Reed
Goal: Lambert, 28
Manchester United team: David De Gea, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic (c), Chris Smalling, Darren Fletcher, Shinji Kagawa (Michael Carrick 46), Juan Mata (Antonio Valencia 88), Adnan Januzaj, Danny Welbeck, Robin van Persie (Javier Hernandez 67)
Unused substitutes: Ben Amos, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Tom Lawrence
Goal: Mata, 55
Referee: Mike Dean
Attendance: 31,372 (including 3,094 away)