MAN UNITED 2, SOUTHAMPTON 1
Manchester United continued to make life hard for themselves on the night when victory against Southampton at Old Trafford stretched their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League to seven points.
It has become an all-too-familiar scenario of the Reds having to come from behind to pick up maximum points – something that has happened 12 times with nine of those occasions ending in triumph.
This time it was Wayne Rooney who inspired the fightback scoring twice in the opening period, his 11th and 12th goals of the season. And Sir Alex Ferguson admitted United were far from their best and the win was all-important.
“There is always a game when you need a bit of luck and it was one of those night,” he declared.
Ferguson was pleased with the way his side recovered after conceding and early goal saying his side could have been four or five goals ahead at the break.
He added that the deteriorating pitch did not help their cause in the second period.
“The pitch required us to play a different way. Southampton didn’t give us time to settle and the pitch required us to take an extra touch,” he explained.
There was praise for Saints from Ferguson who described their second-half display as the best from any visiting team.
It was the Saints who marched into a third-minute lead with a goal which was a comedy of errors as far as United were concerned, though it was no laughing matter,
Michael Carrick’s wayward back pass was followed by a blooper from David De Gea as the keeper jumped over the ball instead of clearing it into the stand. Saints’ striker Jay Rodriguez could not believe his luck as he was left with a simple tap in, though from a narrow angle.
It was the jolt that United needed as they produced a stirring recovery and were back on level terms in the eighth minute. A majestic through ball from Shinji Kagawa released Rooney who fired a low shot past keeper Artur Boruc from 10 yards.
Kagawa struck an upright and van Persie’s deflected shot looped just over the crossbar. United went ahead in the 27th minute when van Persie’s curled free kick to the far post was headed back across the face of goal by Patrice Evra for Rooney to have a simple tap in.
After impressing in the opening period, in which they played some delightful football, it was an altogether different story in an error-strewn second period for the Reds.
Saints pressed far higher upfield squeezing United and preventing them playing the fluent football of the first half.
They were far more of an attacking threat as substitute Steve Davis had two decent goal attempts while Ricky Lambert’s free kick was fumbled by De Gea.
United need a third goal to settle nerves and it so nearly came in the 77th minute moments after Boruc made a great save to keep out van Persie’s header. Rooney delivered a delicious cross from the left and Boruc could only help van Persie’s near-post header into the net, but the effort was ruled out for offside.
Saints remained a threat with De Gea making a splendid save to keep out Ricky Lambert’s free kick as they held on for three points.