It’s a well-known fact that Southampton isn’t a team that does well in defending a lead.
In fact, it’s become a trope so often mentioned by commentators in the game that it is rivalling the talk surrounding those two scorelines Saints endured against Leicester City and Manchester United over the past couple of seasons.
After Saints’ second-half collapse against Everton last weekend, it almost seemed inevitable that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side would fold again when Mason Greenwood scored an equaliser for Manchester United in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at St Mary’s.
That didn’t happen.
One thing that may have played a part in that not happening is Hasenhuttl’s decision to make a tactical change at half time, reverting to a more defence-minded approach with five at the back. He also substituted the ineffective Theo Walcott at half time for Jan Bednarek to slot into that core three in that Saints backline.
You don’t often see the Austrian reverting to a Plan B or making early substitutions, but Hasenhuttl said it was something he and his Southampton squad worked hard on in midweek in preparation for United on Sunday.
And he is rightly pleased with how it worked.
“It was an intense week to prepare for this game,” Hasenhuttl said in a post-match interview.
“It’s good that in the end we take something for the work we have done for this game. It’s always a risk to change the shape after a good first half and surprise the opponents and be in the end more stable.
“After the first 10 minutes we were struggling to find this shape because it’s not about being passive or deeper, we should still be on the jump but in a different way – it works quite well.
“That moment we conceded a goal but in the end after 70 minutes we had the bigger chances, we should normally win the game, but in the end that is how it should be.
Saints were under the cosh for the early stages of the second half that resulted in the United goal.
Hasenhuttl said it took time for his defence to truly settle in that new formation and the last 20 minutes of the game, where Saints looked the better side out of the two, is a better indication on how this tactical switch could work.
“Like always, it’s not easy to immediately step in the right way,” said Hasenhuttl.
“In the first ten minutes we didn’t do it very good. I was shouting to push because being five-at-the-back doesn’t mean you have to be passive.”