THE THEATRE of dreams became a house of horrors for Southampton as they crashed to a second 9-0 loss in as many seasons, crushed by Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The writing was on the wall as early as 81 seconds into the contest when Alex Jankewitz, making his first start for Saints, was sent off for an horrendous studs-up challenge on Scott McTominay.

Saints initially defended resolutely, but that resolve was broken on 18 minutes through Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

The floodgates then opened with Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani getting in on the act either side of a Jan Bednarek own goal as United raced into a 4-0 half-time lead.

And Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men did not let-up in the second-half, adding further goals through Anthony Martial and McTominay.

Bednarek’s night then went from bad to worse, sent off for bringing down Martial in the box late on, allowing Bruno Fernandes to tuck in a seventh goal.

And in the final few minutes, goals from Martial and Dan James inflicted another 9-0, following on from the same score against Leicester City in October 2019.

Ralph Hasenhuttl made four changes from the weekend loss to Aston Villa. Three were enforced with Theo Walcott, Oriol Romeu and Ibrahima Diallo all injured, taking the list of absentees in the treatment room for Saints to nine. Nathan Redmond dropped to a bench which included two goalkeepers and a host of academy talents.

That meant a first start for the club for teenage Swiss midfielder Jankewitz, while young right-back Kayne Ramsay made his first appearance for the club since January 2019.

Also coming into the XI were Moussa Djenepo and Che Adams. Takumi Minamino, the deadline day arrival from Liverpool, was not registered in time to feature.

But any plan depleted Saints had was thrown out of the window in just the second minute as Jankewitz steamed into a high, reckless challenge on McTominay and he was duly dismissed by referee Mike Dean.

Saints switched to a 4-4-1 formation with Danny Ings moving out to the left wing and Stuart Armstrong moving more central to partner James Ward-Prowse.

The pattern of the game was instantly set with Saints camping men behind the ball and they initially kept United at bay.

However, when former Saint Luke Shaw delivered for fellow full-back Wan-Bissaka at the far post, Ings was caught napping and the deadlock was broken.

A second goal quickly followed. Shaw was involved again, picking out Greenwood in the box, who cut the ball back for Rashford to sweep home, despite a hand from Alex McCarthy.

Any threat Saints did pose came via set pieces with David de Gea alert to tip a 20-yard Ward-Prowse free-kick over the crossbar.

But a third goal soon arrived at the other end as Bednarek stretched to try and block a Rashford cross, only to inadvertently turn it into his own net.

Cavani, who bagged a match-winning brace in the reverse fixture, also got in on the act before the half was out, nodding home from the centre of the box.

Things looked like they were about to go from bad to worse when Dean pointed to the penalty spot after Ramsay slid in and fouled Cavani, however video assistant referee Graham Scott deemed the challenge to have occurred outside the box.

But a VAR call went against Saints early in the second half, ruling out a well-placed Adams shot from an acute angle. The striker was ruled marginally offside after a lengthy consultation with the additional officials.

After a lull in the game, United burst back into life with 20 minutes to play, making it 5-0 when Martial collected from Fernandes and fired high past McCarthy.

Barely a few seconds later, it was six. After Greenwood had been denied by McCarthy, McTominay guided in a long-range effort into the bottom corner.

Saints should have pulled one back after Nathan Redmond teed up Adams, but the striker blazed over.

Hasenhuttl used the closing stages to introduce defender Allan Tchaptchet for his Saints debut.

And there was time for another twist as Bednarek was given his marching orders for a foul on Martial in the box, after Dean went to consult the pitchside monitor. Fernandes made no mistake with the penalty.

And the thumping win was sealed when Martial and James slammed home in the final moments.

Saints: McCarthy; Ramsay, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Jankewitz; Armstrong, Djenepo (Tchaptchet, 78); Adams, Ings (Redmond, 70).

Unused subs: Ferry, Finnigan, Watts, Chauke, N’Lundulu, Lewis (g/k), Forster (g/k).

Booked: Ramsay, Stephens.

Sent off: Jankewitz, Bednarek.

Man Utd: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw (van de Beek, h-t); McTominay, Fred; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford (James, 60); Cavani (Martial, h-t).

Unused subs: Williams, Bailly, Telles, Matic, Pogba, Henderson (g/k).

Booked: Maguire, van de Beek.

Referee: Mike Dean.

VAR: Graham Scott.