Premier League
SouthamptonSouthampton1Man UtdManchester United2

Southampton 1-2 Manchester United

By Mike HensonBBC Sport
Robin van Persie
Van Persie scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season for United
  • Man Utd up to third for first time since August 2013
  • United make two early substitutions
  • Visitors score two of their three shots
  • Southampton lose third successive game

Manchester United moved to third in the Premier League after Robin van Persie's brace gave them victory over an often-superior Southampton at St Mary's.

United took an early lead as Van Persie pounced on Jose Fonte's slack backpass, but Graziano Pelle swept in a deserved equaliser as the Saints fought back.

Southampton had plenty of chances, but Van Persie guided in Wayne Rooney's deep free-kick for the decisive goal.

Southampton 1-2 Man United: Saints were better - Louis van Gaal

David De Gea turned away a low Pelle shot as Southampton ran out of steam.

United's fifth successive Premier League win came despite registering only three shots at goal to Southampton's 15 as the visitors' occasionally shambolic defensive performance cast further doubt over their solidity at the other end.

But the mere fact of the club's return to the top three for the first time since August 2013 will raise hopes they can remain there until the end of the season - the bare minimum requested by chief executive Ed Woodward this summer.

United's fans ended the match singing Van Persie's name and it was the Dutchman who capitalised on Fonte's early error to give their side the lead.

The Southampton skipper's attempt to play the ball back to goalkeeper Fraser Forster was risky, but Van Persie's anticipation and deft finish through the goalkeeper's legs skilfully extracted full punishment.

Southampton had threatened through Shane Long, and an early muscle injury suffered by Chris Smalling fuelled their belief, as well as adding to United's injury list.

Jonny Evans was ushered on for his first appearance since September's 5-3 defeat by Leicester, but his introduction only spread uncertainty through United's three-man defence.

Southampton found gaps between the Northern Ireland international, Paddy McNair and Marcos Rojo with Sadio Mane's weaving run only ended by a last-ditch challenge and Dusan Tadic over-hitting a simple through ball to Long.

The seemingly inevitable equaliser arrived shortly after though. A mob of United players failed to clear a cross, Tadic's shot fell invitingly to the feet of Pelle and the Italy international swept home to end a run of five games without a goal.

Make it count
Manchester United had six touches in the opposition box over the 90 minutes, 26 fewer than Southampton.

United manager Louis van Gaal reacted by switching personnel rather than system - taking off McNair, bringing on Ander Herrera and moving Michael Carrick into defence - but the flow of the game stayed the same with Southampton piling pressure on a vulnerable United as the half came to an end.

Saints boss Ronald Koeman, whose relationship with Van Gaal soured after a falling out while colleagues on Ajax's technical staff in 2004, saw his side continue to turn the screw in the second half.

Saints didn't punish errors - Koeman

Long could only direct a header into De Gea's midriff when unmarked at the far post before Pelle strolled in behind Carrick but lifted a shot over the bar.

But thanks to another piece of opportunism from Van Persie, Van Gaal shook hands with Koeman as an unlikely victor.

Wayne Rooney's deep free-kick could have been claimed by Forster, but as the goalkeeper stayed rooted to his line Van Persie stretched to guide home a volley with the outside of his foot.

The goal was a body blow to Southampton, and while Pelle and Nathaniel Clyne threatened from distance, the Saints could not recover their attacking rhythm.

Instead they were fortunate to remain with 11 men on the pitch as Fonte and Mane escaped red cards following heavy challenges on Herrera and Van Persie.

Louis van Gaal and Ronald Koeman
Ronald Koeman was coach when Louis van Gaal was technical director at Ajax
Robin van Persie and Ashley Young
Robin van Persie reached the World Cup semi-finals with Van Gaal and the Netherlands earlier this year
Graziano Pelle celebrates against Manchester United
Pelle's last league goal came against Sunderland on 18 October



Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 23Forster
  • 2Clyne
  • 6José FonteBooked at 90mins
  • 3Yoshida
  • 21Bertrand
  • 8Davis
  • 12Wanyama
  • 7LongSubstituted forMayukaat 79'minutes
  • 11TadicSubstituted forHeskethat 70'minutes
  • 10ManéBooked at 89mins
  • 19Pellè


  • 1Davis
  • 5Gardos
  • 24Mayuka
  • 27Isgrove
  • 28Reed
  • 33Targett
  • 42Hesketh

Man Utd

Formation 3-1-4-2

  • 1de Gea
  • 12SmallingSubstituted forEvansat 18'minutes
  • 5Rojo
  • 33McNairSubstituted forHerreraat 39'minutes
  • 16Carrick
  • 18Young
  • 25A Valencia
  • 31Fellaini
  • 8MataSubstituted forFletcherat 89'minutes
  • 20van Persie
  • 10RooneyBooked at 90mins


  • 6Evans
  • 9Falcao
  • 11Januzaj
  • 13Lindegaard
  • 21Herrera
  • 24Fletcher
  • 49Wilson
Kevin Friend

Match Stats

Home TeamSouthamptonAway TeamMan Utd
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Southampton 1, Manchester United 2.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Southampton 1, Manchester United 2.

  3. Booking

    Jose Fonte (Southampton) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Jose Fonte (Southampton).

  5. Post update

    Ander Herrera (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  6. Booking

    Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card.

  7. Booking

    Sadio Mané (Southampton) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Sadio Mané (Southampton).

  9. Post update

    Robin van Persie (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  10. Substitution

    Substitution, Manchester United. Darren Fletcher replaces Juan Mata.

  11. Post update

    Offside, Southampton. Maya Yoshida tries a through ball, but Graziano Pellè is caught offside.

  12. Post update

    Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Antonio Valencia.

  13. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Graziano Pellè.

  14. Post update

    Attempt missed. Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Steven Davis following a corner.

  15. Post update

    Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Jonny Evans.

  16. Post update

    Hand ball by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).

  17. Post update

    Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  18. Post update

    Foul by Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).

  19. Post update

    Foul by Jonny Evans (Manchester United).

  20. Post update

    Steven Davis (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

As It Stood

2Man City15103232141833
3Man Utd158432617928
4West Ham158342618827
11Aston Villa155461019-919
15Crystal Palace153571823-514
16West Brom153571420-614
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