Southampton 1 Man United 2: Three talking points
Three talking points as Robin van Persie bags a brace at St Mary's
Double delight for Van Persie downs resilient Saints
After a breath-taking start to the season for Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side, in which they found themselves second in the league, the South Coast outfit have struggled in recent weeks against top opposition. Losses to Manchester City and Arsenal meant the hosts were keen to stop the rot against a Manchester United side, who had endured a mixed time of things under Koeman’s fellow Dutchman, Louis van Gaal. On a night where two Dutch managers went head-to-head for the first time in Premier League history, it was another man from the Netherlands, Robin van Persie who stole the show. The United striker opened the scoring early, capitalising on an errant back pass from Saints skipper Jose Fonte in what would be a rather lacklustre half for the visitors. He then regained the lead for his side in the second half with a composed finish at the back post. All in all, a fine performance from a player who himself had been struggling for form.
Pelle ends goal drought but can’t prevent third straight defeat
Having been in somewhat of a freefall in recent weeks, and with their leading scorer short of form, Southampton looked to be behind the eight ball from the off. Things didn’t improve when Van Persie gave United the lead, but Graziano Pelle stepped up and brought his side level shortly after. Having gone six games without a goal, Pelle, who has been brilliant this season for the Saints, bagged an all-important 10th goal of the season to get his campaign back on track. The home side led through the attacking strength of Pelle and had the better of the first period, and despite going a goal behind, would have been the happier of the two sides going in at the break. Credit to Koeman’s side, they never once gave up and they pressed for an equaliser throughout.
United have Manchester rivals in their sights
Despite an inconsistent season, Van Gaal’s side are finding themselves some sort of form and consistency in recent weeks. Five wins on the bounce ahead of a big showdown with old enemy Liverpool on Sunday will please the Old Trafford faithful no end as they look to get back into the top four come the end of the season. They have a difficult festive period ahead of them with games against Aston Villa, Newcastle and Tottenham to close out the year. The win over Saints, though, leaves them just five points short of local rivals City and a further three adrift of league leaders Chelsea – all quite incredible considering their much-publicised struggles with form and injury. For Southampton, they will want to end a run of defeats against Burnley and have tests against Everton and Chelsea before the year is out, not to mention a League Cup quarter-final to contend with. Saints fans will be hoping they are not looking back at their start to the season and thinking what might have been when the summer rolls around.