Edinson Cavani’s second-half super sub performance helped Manchester United pull off a stunning comeback win at Southampton.
But before the Uruguayan’s cameo, James Ward-Prowse underlined his status as one of the Premier League’s top set-piece specialists.
First there was the wonderfully whipped corner into United’s six-yard box, which made it oh so easy for Jan Bednarek to glance the ball past David de Gea. “His delivery is just so good,” purred Sky Sports pundit Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink at half-time. “He does it game after game after game. His consistency is second to none.”
Then there was Ward-Prowse’s latest fantastic free-kick. He’s had six attempts and scored with three of them so far this term – a remarkable strike rate – and the latest bent over the United wall, sped towards the near corner, and was too forceful for De Gea to keep out with one hand.
“The pace he gets on it, the accuracy, he’s certainly one of the best in Europe at the moment with that type of ability,” said former United captain Roy Keane on Sky Sports. “From Southampton’s point of view it’s fantastic, it’s like giving away a penalty.”
From Southampton’s point of view it’s fantastic, it’s like giving away a penalty.
From dead ball situations, few can match Ward-Prowse’s quality in the Premier League right now.
He’s scored nine direct free-kicks since his first appearance in the Premier League in the 2012/13 season and that’s more than any other player in that time, ahead of former Tottenham star Christian Eriksen and Manchester United’s Juan Mata.
In terms of the all-time standings, David Beckham is now the only Englishman ahead of Ward-Prowse in Premier League history. Beckham scored 18 direct free-kicks, so there is still a long way to go for the Southampton 26-year-old – although he did pull level with Frank Lampard and Jamie Redknapp in the standings on Sunday.
And when it comes to chance creation from these set-piece situations, Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson – who has fashioned 204 openings from free-kicks and corners – is the only man who tops Ward-Prowse (171, level with Eriksen) since 2012/13.
Ultimately, Ward-Prowse’s double dead ball impact wasn’t enough for Southampton against Manchester United but his display at St Mary’s was another reminder of his excellence in these situations.
Jamie Redknapp’s verdict
Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp was a master from set-pieces himself during his playing days and earlier in November he explained why Ward-Prowse’s much-practised technique is so impressive…
“Fantastic technique. He’s the best I’ve seen since David Beckham in terms of technique that he has. We see it all different ways, Cristiano Ronaldo goes straight onto the ball. James has that one where he gets onto the side, he wants to get his left foot out of the way and get that ball dipping as fast as he can.
“It’s a brilliant technique and you can see it’s one he’s worked on so much after training. Hours and hours and hours of practice. That’s why he’s had the success rate he has. An amazing ability to get it up and down, dipping into the corner with so much pace.”