Robin van Persie went from villain to hero as he completed a hat-trick in stoppage-time as Manchester United beat Southampton 3-2 at St Mary's.
Van Persie makes up for penalty miss with late, late showRobin van Persie went from villain to hero as he completed a hat-trick in stoppage-time as Manchester United beat Southampton 3-2 at St Mary's. Van Persie saw his dinked penalty saved in the second half as the Saints looked like pulling off a remarkable win before the Dutchman netted twice in the final five minutes to deny the hosts. It was a fitting finale to Sir Alex Ferguson's 1,000th league game in charge of United to conclude a contest full of drama. Nigel Adkins' men had opened the scoring when Jason Puncheon's left-footed cross from the right found Rickie Lambert at the far post and the tall forward headed past Anders Lindegaard. Van Persie replied before half-time as he capitalised on Nathaniel Clyne's slip to fire past Kelvin Davis. If the interval was supposed to see Saints fade it proved anything but as this time it was Patrice Evra's turn to slip in the area - allowing Morgan Schneiderlin to head the home side back in front 10 minutes into the second half. When Van Persie saw Davis save his penalty after he had been scythed down by Jos Hooiveld, that is how it looked like staying. But the 29-year-old summer signing from Arsenal had the final say to cap a dramatic afternoon for the Red Devils and cruelly consign Southampton to a third consecutive defeat.
DecisionHeading into the game, much of the talk was about Ferguson's decision to play Lindegaard instead of regular No.1 goalkeeper David de Gea. Rio Ferdinand was also a notable inclusion as he made his first appearance of the season, partnering Nemanja Vidic in defence for the first time since a 2-1 defeat by Basel last December. The occasion seemed to get the better of the hosts in the opening exchanges and in the sixth minute Van Persie fired a volley just wide. The attempt awoke Southampton from their slumber and they were soon pushing forward, with Adam Lallana shooting wide after meeting a clever low corner from Danny Fox. Schneiderlin blazed over from long range as the hosts continued to push for a goal that came after just 16 minutes. Saints were getting a lot of joy down the right flank and made the most of it as Puncheon sent a hanging cross to the back post, which Rafael failed to deal with and Lambert headed home. However, like so often against United, the goal only seemed to spur Ferguson's side into life. Shinji Kagawa was first to show the visitors' intent as he struck a speculative 20-yard effort that Davis could only push wide. Southampton rode out that storm but could not prevent United drawing level in the 23rd minute. Antonio Valencia's cross from the right looked like it would be intercepted by Clyne but the Saints right-back slipped and Van Persie took full advantage, controlling with aplomb before firing home. The Netherlands international almost added a 99th Premier League goal shortly afterwards with a nonchalant 20-yard free-kick which curled just wide. It was not all United, though, as Lambert fired just wide and then both James Ward-Prowse and Lallana came close with long-range efforts. However, Ferguson's side were proving adept at exploiting the hosts' weaknesses. One such example was Saints left-back Fox, who once again let Valencia cross from the right and, following another slip by Clyne, only the quick reactions of Davis prevented Evra netting at the back post. Fox's torrid time continued in the second half as Valencia beat him to a pass from Davis, although the Ecuadorian's cross was not converted by Van Persie. Kagawa came close moments before that as United started the second half just as they had ended the first.
DominationThat domination counted for nothing, though, as another penalty-box slip resulted in a goal. This time Evra was the unfortunate party as his fall allowed Schneiderlin to nod home a Lambert cross unopposed to the delight of the vast majority of those inside St Mary's. It started a spell of dominance for the hosts as Puncheon forced Lindegaard into a smart save at the near post, before Rafael cleared under pressure from Lambert and Lallana had an effort blocked. Only Ferdinand prevented Ward-Prowse slotting home a Lambert cross, before Paul Scholes and Nani came on as Ferguson looked to turn the screw on the hosts - and it almost had an immediate effect. After Van Persie saw an effort saved by Davis, the Saints goalkeeper sent a terrible miskick straight to substitute Nani on the left. The ball was worked into the box and Hooiveld conceded a penalty for a sliding challenge on the former Arsenal striker. Van Persie took the resulting penalty but his chip was saved by Davis, much to the delight of the home faithful. Debutant Emmanuel Mayuka was among three changes made by manager Adkins as he looked to close out the game under immense United pressure. Javier Hernandez headed across the face of goal in the dying minutes, before he was then denied by a late Clyne tackle. However, Saints could not stop United grabbing a later equaliser as Ferdinand's header came back off the post and Van Persie directed home three minutes from time. Things got worse for the hosts in stoppage-time as Van Persie nodded home Nani's cross to ensure the three points would go back to Manchester.
|Southampton||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||7|
|7||Shots off Target||9|
|41.9||1st Half Poss.||58.1|
|49.7||2nd Half Poss.||50.3|