SOUTHAMPTON, England — Sergio Romero showed Manchester United will be in safe hands in the Europa League final by saving an early penalty and producing many other great stops in a 0-0 draw at Southampton in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Filling in for the rested David de Gea, the Argentina goalkeeper tipped aside Manolo Gabbiadini’s sixth-minute spot-kick that was awarded for a handball against Eric Bailly even though video replays the contact was outside the area.
Romero was busy early in the second half as he preserved his clean sheet for United, which fielded a slew of fringe players — including Wayne Rooney — a week out from the Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm.
United manager Jose Mourinho has already said Romero will start in the final ahead of regular goalkeeper David de Gea, as he has done throughout the European competition.
"One is Argentina national-team goalkeeper and one is Spanish national-team goalkeeper, two of the best countries in the world," Mourinho said. "We are in safe gloves."
"Of course, Sergio had a very good performance. More than very good," Mourinho added. "The team was not perfect but the players gave me good things. They showed they want to be in that final."
Romero’s form as back-up for De Gea this season has been very impressive, giving Mourinho plenty to ponder ahead of an off-season when Real Madrid could come back in for De Gea following interest in the goalkeeper in previous transfer windows.
Mourinho downplayed any chance of United allowing De Gea to leave, saying: "David is top in the world and we want to keep the top in the world."
Anthony Martial came closest to scoring for United, curling a shot against the post in the 71st minute.
The game had little significance for either side, with United guaranteed to finish in sixth place and Southampton currently in eighth place and unable to finish any higher.
United, criticized for playing cautiously under Mourinho, has scored just two goals in its last five games. Southampton’s wait for a home goal moved past the six-hour mark, hardly a great statistic for under-pressure manager Claude Puel.
United midfielder Marouane Fellaini was substituted in the 75th minute with an unspecified injury. With the Ajax game in mind, Mourinho said he had a "little bad feeling" about the injury.