Saints were deservedly applauded from the field after their second half showing against Manchester United, but what matters more is whether they can take that same spirit into games against the likes of Stoke, Newcastle and West Brom.

Spirit not just in the sense of togetherness, of purpose, of intensity, of work rate, but also attacking intent and style.

After a first half in which Saints were meek against United, playing admittedly a very good team but giving them too much respect and falling into that trap of ponderous attacks with little width and so much in front of their visitors, they found a new rhythm.

It was one of pressing, of unity of purpose, getting the ball out wide, and trying to get round the outside rather than measured passing and favouring control of the game.

You wouldn’t call it entirely caution to the wind type stuff, but it would be fair to say that at times it strayed into the swashbuckling bracket.

It was exciting, and Saints look so much more likely to do damage playing that way.

But in a way it isn’t as difficult to do that when you are 1-0 down to United at half time.

Frankly, you don’t have much to lose.

Nobody really expects you to win the game and so the pressure is off. The pressure of a missed chance doesn’t sit as heavily on the shoulders. You still don’t score, you lose the game, and can get cheered off if you’ve given it a good go. Were Stoke the opponents that wouldn’t be the case.

You wouldn’t expect Saints to approach every game in the same way, but the second half was much more like it. It should be something of a template for them.

To produce that against their next opponents – Stoke, Newcastle, West Brom, Brighton – is the real test. It is here that the pressure is on, that an odd goal could be crucial, that you don’t want to make a mistake that you fear could cost you.

It is also against these sides that Saints need to profit. If Mauricio Pellegrino is to turn around these goalscoring problems and make the team one capable of fighting for European football, these are the games in which to garner the points.

Because for all of Saints’ admirable play, the unwanted stat still notched up another turn of the scoreboard – now no home goals at St Mary’s in nine of the last ten matches.

Once again they did enough to have expected to have got at least one, but it didn’t come.

In fairness to Pellegrino he was pretty blunt about that, refusing to blame any outside factors and indeed pointing out that if you don’t score then you know what can happen.

United didn’t take long to start to pin Saints back, and eventually the pressure told as they took the lead on 20 minutes.

Ashley Young’s shoulder drops earned him a yard to whip in a left wing cross which found Romelu Lukaku on his own on the edge of the six yard box after he had outmuscled Wesley Hoedt.

It is not an advisable position to leave him in and he made Saints pay, finishing at the second attempt after Fraser Forster had produced an excellent reaction save to prevent his first effort going in.

Marcus Rashford came close to adding another goal with a free kick that went narrowly wide as United cruised through the first half, so comfortable against a Saints threat that was narrow and too slow.

Saints did begin to spark into a bit of life just before half time and took that momentum into the second period. They attacked out wide, stretching United, trying to go outside them, and their illustrious opponents were very troubled.

Oriol Romeu had a hat-trick of chances, putting wide after a corner deflected his way, seeing a good header cleared by Marouane Fellaini retreating back towards the goalline and failing to hit the target after arriving in the box following a sumptuous Saints passing move.

Nathan Redmond, so much brighter in the second half and really showing what he could deliver Saints, twice worked David De Gea as they searched, ultimately in vain, for an equaliser.

United still posed a threat on the break, and Forster had to save with his legs from Lukaku before Ander Herrera missed the chance to seal the win, firing over with time to pick his spot from inside the area.

Mourinho paid Saints the ultimate compliment as he brought on another centre half and changed formation in a bid to try and contain Pellegrino’s men as United just clung on.

In the end they did do enough to get away with the three points.

As much as Saints wanted something tangible from this game, maybe they got something intangible, though potentially more important.

They got a sense of what they are capable of, what they could achieve under Pellegrino. If they could control United like this then why not Stoke, Newcastle and West Brom?

It’s now a case of taking this forward and continuing in this manner.

If they do, things will get much better very quickly.