Manchester United were quite frankly pretty poor against Southampton at St Mary's this evening, but have a combination of horrific home defending and utterly ruthless finishing from Robin van Persie to thank for their fifth successive Premier League victory.
Van Persie produced his best performance of the season by some distance to bag a brilliant brace in a 2-1 victory, punishing errors from Jose Fonte and Fraser Forster which bookended a display full of some underwhelming individual displays from both teams.
Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal perhaps has a shade of fortune to thank for his second away win as manager, but far more importantly Van Persie finally looks to be discovering the kind of form that makes him an absolute nightmare for any team in the country to keep quiet.
There were plenty of passengers at St Mary's though, so expect Van Gaal to take action ahead of Sunday's clash with bitter rivals Liverpool. Here's how United's players shaped up on the South Coast, Paddy McNair look away now.
David De Gea - 7
Relatively quiet even for the Spanish stopper - but still comfortably dealt with efforts from Graziano Pelle and Shane Long from point-blank range. Will likely have been livid with the efforts from his defence during the latter part of the first half though, United simply have to be better.
Paddy McNair - 3
Horrible night for the youngster, who finally looked well out of his depth after a meteoric rise to the first team. Van Gaal decided he could take no chances with McNair after a string of errors, which included a woeful clearance straight to Long that really should've been punished. Will need to show character to respond from the biggest setback of his fledging career, being withdrawn after just 39 minutes.
Chris Smalling - 6
Only lasted 16 minutes before being replaced by Jonny Evans - yet another injury problem in defence that United could do without. Looked far from composed in the early going though.
Marcos Rojo - 5
Calmed down once United make tweaks to formation and personnel, but was all at sea before those adjustments. Gave away possession consistently and has still failed to convince as a central defender in all honesty.
Antonio Valencia - 6
Solid stuff from one of United's few dependable figures early on, dealing with something of an erratic livewire in Sadio Mane with relative success. Doesn't offer the ability to burst beyond a defender going the other way like he once did though.
Ashley Young - 7
Looked quite comfortable as a wing-back and kept attempting to offer an outlet and final ball, which is not something that can be said for many of his team-mates this evening. On this evidence Van Gaal will continue to trust Young to do a job on the left-hand side.
Michael Carrick - 6
The experienced midfielder's return has been one of the key's to their recent upturn in form, but was swamped centrally early on by an energetic opposition. Was also guilty of being muscled out by Pelle for the goal United conceded, but did improve considerably after the break.
Marouane Fellaini - 5
Unforgivable mistake to give away possession so cheaply and help Saints equalise summed up struggles in the first half, regularly wanting far too long on the ball and not doing anything with it in truth. Much better in the second half and got a grip of the game, but place may be under threat after this.
Juan Mata - 4
Nothing short of a passenger for much of the match, contributing little and effectively lost in the swamp of a congested midfield. Showed his lack of mobility after failing to track Dusan Tadic for the opener too. Not sure there's a place for him in this United team long-term.
Wayne Rooney - 6
Fairly anonymous display from United's captain, but did come up with a brilliant lofted ball to find Van Persie's deep run for the winning goal. Pair have rarely looked like an effective partnership in attack, but that combination should be enough to keep the duo in attack against Liverpool.
Robin van Persie - 9 (Man of the match)
Masterclass in finishing when called upon from the Dutch master, who showed his predatory instincts are still razor sharp to pounce on Fonte's poor backpass for the opener. Second goal was also very clever, exposing a static Forster as his near post with a deft finish. Six goals in 15 games suddenly looks like a much more respectable return for the campaign, something for a man who has been openly criticised in recent weeks to build opon.
Jonny Evans - 6
Welcome return for the Northern Irish defender, but did look off the pace after being thrust into a frenetic match. Like many of his team-mates improved gradually as the match progressed, which is good news because with Smalling now out United need him to find form quickly.
Ander Herrera - 7
Helped United get hold of the ball in midfield after replacing McNair and perhaps should've started. The combination of Herrera and Mata doesn't look to be one worth pursuing though.
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