Southampton’s efforts went unrewarded on a chilly night at St. Mary’s as Robin van Persie’s double gave Manchester United all three points.
The Dutchman capitalised on Jose Fonte’s mistake early on to slot through Fraser Forster’s legs after the defender had sent a pass towards his goalkeeper with noticing van Persie’s presence.
Graziano Pelle deservedly swept the home side level before half time but despite all their dominance, van Persie was left unmarked at the far post to tap home from Wayne Rooney’s deep free kick to steal the points for United.
In a game they dominated from start to finish, the Saints came out of the blocks fast, but were behind after captain Jose Fonte’s uncharacteristic mistake.
The Portuguese sent a pass towards Fraser Forster without looking, inadvertently leaving Robin Van Persie in the clear.
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The Dutchman controlled himself before punishing the Saints defender to the maximum, by slotting the ball between Forster’s legs to give the visitors the lead.
The Saints though kept pressing and after Chris Smalling was forced off through injury and Paddy McNair was replaced as well, Graziano Pelle made the United defence pay after their reshuffle.
Good work from the Saints forward line saw Dusan Tadic poke a shot at goal, it lacked power but fell perfectly for Pelle to stroke home off David De Gea into the top corner from
It was the Italian’s first league goal since the 8-0 victory over Sunderland in October and the relief in his celebration was clear for all to see.
Failed to take their chances
The second half followed the same theme as the first, as Ronald Koeman’s side took the initiative primarily thanks to Victor Wanyama’s dominance in the centre of the park.
First Shane Long’s header was repelled by De Gea and then Pelle swept another effort just over the crossbar after neat work from Tadic.
Pelle kept going though and soon fired another effort across Dea Gea who palmed away for a corner in a concerted spell of home pressure they just couldn’t turn in to goals.
Clinical finishing key
One more chance was all United were given and it was all they needed to steal all three points.
Wayne Rooney’s deep free kick from the left evaded everybody and Robin Van Persie was unmarked at the far post to knock through Forster’s legs and into the net.
The Saints will feel hard done by, but Louis Van Gaal’s side took the points which saw them push their opponents down into fifth whilst climbing above the Saints and West Ham into third for the first time this season.
Southampton player ratings
Forster – 5
Clyne – 7
Fonte – 6
Yoshida – 7
Bertrand – 7
Wanyama – 8
Davis – 7
Tadic – 7
Long – 6
Mane – 5
Pelle – 7
Hesketh – 6
Mayuka - 6