Daily Echo:

Spirited Saints produced a stirring second half performance but couldn’t find a goal at St Mary’s yet again as they were beaten 1-0 by Manchester United.

Romelu Lukaku scored what proved to be the winner 20 minutes into a first half in which United were in total control.

Saints came out for the second period fired up and creating chances, but they weren’t able to take one as they drew a blank at home for the ninth time in the last ten matches at St Mary’s.

However, they still left with a sense of confidence and to a standing ovation for their efforts.

Before the game started new Saints majority owner Gao Jisheng was introduced to the St Mary’s crowd and was given a warm welcome.

Saints started positively but were given a warning as to United’s counter attacking speed as Dusan Tadic broke but went down in instalments on the edge of the box with referee Craig Pawson refusing his appeals for a free kick.

United moved forward at speed, getting the ball to Marcus Rashford in space on the left. After he had cut across the face of the box and been challenged Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit a low shot from 20 yards that was a fairly simple save for Fraser Forster.

Nathan Redmond had half a chance for Saints on ten minutes as a corner broke to him but he slashed a tricky first time shot well wide.

United were proving to be a class act and hard to contain, but Saints were working so hard to keep them at bay, even though they were increasing being pressed further and further back.

In the end the pressure told as United took the lead on 20 minutes.

United got the ball out to Ashley Young on the left, and he produced several drops of the shoulder to get a yard from Tadic to put in a right footed cross.

Romelu Lukaku was too strong for Wesley Hoedt and from the edge of the six yard box put in a downward header. Forster got down to make a fantastic reaction save but the rebound was pushed to Lukaku whose somewhat scuffed shot bobbled in.

Rashford came close to adding another as he hit a central free kick that beat the wall but went narrowly wide of the post.

Saints were really struggling to impose themselves on the game with United looking both comfortable and very threatening.

From a Saints perspective their attacks were not particularly incisive and so often they were playing in front of United, while every time they tried to push up the counter attack was always on.

Shane Long became the first player in the book as he downed Marouane Fellaini from behind with a mistimed swing of his right boot. Young followed him after ploughing through the back of Tadic.

United threatened again before half time as Oriol Romeu gave the ball away and a quick break saw Lukaku lay a cross deep into the Saints six yard box but the sliding Hoedt got it away.

Saints ended the first period with a rare spell of pressure but when the whistle went they were grateful of the reprieve and the chance to come up with a fresh game plan to try and find a way back into the game.

Saints picked up where they left off with the major change being that they were trying to get the ball out wide and get round the outside rather than playing so much in front of United.

Romeu had a great chance to level the scores six minutes after the restart as Maya Yoshida deflected a corner and it broke to the midfielder just outside the six yard box.

He was arriving late under pressure but would have hoped to have hit the target rather than putting wide.

Redmond did well to work his way inside from the left wing and hit a right footed shot that David De Gea got down to save at his near post as Saints kept their forward momentum rolling.

Long was the next to have a sniff of goal but back peddling he was unable to guide a header on target.

Saints were really bossing the game, showing a new level of intensity, and it was United well and truly on the back foot and happy that referee Pawson deemed there no foul as Long went down on the edge of the area after a tussle with Phil Jones.

Jose Mourinho responded by making a first change on 62 minutes with Ander Herrera replacing Juan Mata.

Despite having to defend, United had plenty of danger up front still and Forster came to the rescue on 66 minutes as Mkhitaryan slipped in Lukaku who got a first time shot on target but the Saints keeper saved with his legs.

Romeu got a header on target from a right wing corner, arrowing it back towards the opposite corner, but Fellaini had retreated and headed it clear before it could threaten the goal.

Redmond worked De Gea with a drilled low shot from distance as Saints kept pressing forward in search of an equaliser.

Pellegrino made an attacking change on 73 minutes, bringing on Manolo Gabbiadini for Steven Davis as the Italian and Long almost played as a strike pair.

United responded with a defensive substitution with Chris Smalling replacing Mkhitaryan.

Romeu came close again as he got on the end of a sumptuous Saints passing move but his shot across goal from a tight angle drifted wide of the far post.

United could have sealed it moments later as Lukaku got to the left by-line and cut back to Herrera who had time to control and pick his spot from inside the area but fired over the bar.

Pellegrino had one final roll of the dice with seven minutes remaining as Charlie Austin and James Ward-Prowse came on for Long and Cedric.

After a scrappy period Saints knew they had four minutes of added time to try and get something for their efforts.

There was a late change for United as Daley Blind came on for Rashford.

Mourinho was sent to the stands for something he said in the heated final moments, shaking hands with pretty much everyone in the Saints dugout before he departed, but in the end there was to be no further goals as United held on for the win.