Robin van Persie is already proving to be a £24million bargain for Manchester United, after netting an impressive hat-trick to secure all three points for the visitors in Sunday's 3-2 comeback victory against Southampton at St Mary's.

The 29-year-old's 100th Premier League goal - scored in the 92nd minute - proved to be the difference between the two sides, as a spirited Saints were twice pegged back from winning positions, to finish the game empty-handed.

Van Persie drew most of the plaudits, but it could have been a different story for the Dutchman, after he was left embarrassed by a cheeky 68th minute penalty miss. However, the talisman went from zero to hero, with two late strikes to mark the Red Devils boss' 1000th league game in charge of the club, with a thrilling win.

"I don't know what I was thinking [with the penalty]," admitted Van Persie. "I wanted to hit it hard like I always do but at the last second I just changed somehow. Maybe it was my brother out there or something, I don't know.

"But it wasn't good enough and I'm quite disappointed about it. I ask a certain standard from my game. When you are 2-1 down, you can't take a penalty like that. I'm to blame. I don't know what went wrong.

"I was a bit down and afterwards we were a bit lucky to equalise and then with the dramatic third."

Speaking to reporters after the final whistle, Ferguson paid tribute to his ex-Arsenal recruit, for digging not only himself, but the collective United team out of a hole on the south coast.

"Absolutely. I thought we were more or less in control during the first half but it needed Van Persie to score a fantastic equaliser," explained the Scot. "After Southampton scored, I thought we were well out of it until Paul Scholes came on.

"His vision and consistency of passing gave us control again. Of course it was a matter of scoring the goals and Robin has come up with two very important ones. He has four now in two starts and he'll get better."

Reflecting on the encapsulating encounter, Van Persie also took time to pay tribute to the impact made by second-half substitute Scholes, saying: "I have to say 'thank you' to Paul Scholes.

"When he came on, everything was ticking. Every single pass he hit was the right one. He hit a couple of unbelievable 30-40 yard passes. With him, you are always on your toes because anything can happen. He was my man of the match."

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