Stand-in Romero shines in De Gea’s absence

Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero

Sergio Romero staked his claim in David de Gea’s absence as he pulled off a string of superb stops – including an early penalty save – to help Manchester United claim a 0-0 Premier League draw at Southampton.

Jose Mourinho, who has made no attempts in hiding his displeasure at their congested end to the season, has already confirmed that Romero – United’s goalkeeper throughout their Europa League campaign – will start in the upcoming final against Ajax in Stockholm.

And Mourinho did little to quell transfer rumour’s that De Gea’s appearance against Tottenham on Sunday will be the Spaniard’s last for United when he dropped the former Atletico Madrid man from the matchday squad at St Mary’s.

Romero wasted no time in making the most of his opportunity, a fine save from Manolo Gabbiadini’s sixth-minute penalty the first in a succession of fantastic stops throughout.

Gabbiadini’s poor effort represented Southampton’s third penalty miss in the Premier League this season and a failure to make their domination count almost proved costly for the hosts when Anthony Martial rattled the upright.

However, it was Romero who was the star of the show as his inspired form proved that United could well be in safe hands should De Gea leave in the close-season.

Mourinho’s indifferent approach to Wednesday’s fixture looked set to backfire inside five minutes – Eric Bailly, shoehorned in at right-back, blatantly handling on the edge of United’s area.

Despite the ball hitting Bailly’s arm outside of the box, referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot, but justice was done as Romero dived low to his right to keep out Gabbiadini’s tame effort.

Bailly found himself involved at the other end moments later, striking straight at Fraser Forster at the culmination of a powerful run, while Martial should have done better after terrific play from Wayne Rooney.

Romero was at his best once more after the interval, doing well to parry attempts from Dusan Tadic and Oriol Romeu away from danger.

James Ward-Prowse was the next to test United’s stand-in goalkeeper, who pulled off a brilliant stop to tip the England midfielder’s long-range effort wide.

United could have opened the scoring against the run of play just after the hour mark, only for Juan Mata to shoot over following more fine hold-up play from Rooney.

Martial’s sublime strike looked set to put United ahead soon after, only for the base of the left-hand post to come to Southampton’s rescue.

United were handed a blow when Marouane Fellaini hobbled off injured late on, somewhat justifying Mourinho’s pre-match grumbles as both sides settled for a point.