For photos from the match, scroll to Photostream above left. For match stats, click on the statistics tab. Manager reaction below.
Manchester United had to survive a second-half Southampton bombardment before edging seven points clear in the Barclays Premier League title race with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.
While Wayne Rooney’s hot streak continued with a first-half brace that took him to nine goals in nine games, of more concern to Sir Alex Ferguson was his side’s display after the interval, as well as the defending for Southampton’s surprise early goal. Michael Carrick and David De Gea carried much of the responsibility for Jay Rodriguez’s early opener while the goalkeeper also almost spilled Rickie Lambert’s free-kick straight to Adam Lallana. The visitors spent almost the entire second period camped in the United half and were only denied a point by some desperate defending as United failed to stem the tide of attacks.
After just two minutes the problems that have afflicted United this season were laid bare. An underhit and misdirected back-pass from Carrick, which De Gea could not block, allowed Rodriguez to stroke the ball into an empty net to put his side ahead.
But five minutes United were level. An excellent through-ball from Shinji Kagawa sliced through the visitors’ defence, allowing Rooney to charge forward and score. Rooney’s first goal had been his 100th at Old Trafford. It also meant United scored in a record 61 consecutive Premier League home matches.
Kagawa hit a post on United’s next attack and it took some excellent goalkeeping from Artur Boruc to keep the hosts at bay as returning Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck both threatened. When Patrice Evra climbed highest at the far post to meet Van Persie’s free-kick, the France defender left Rooney with the easiest of tap-ins from barely a yard.
But with the hosts struggling to find their rhythm at the start of the second period, Mauricio Pochettino’s team pushed forward in search of an equaliser, with half-time substitute Lallana having a significant influence as Lambert twice went close. United briefly relieved the pressure, with Van Persie’s goal-bound header saved by Boruc before the Dutchman had an effort ruled out for offside.
Southampton were soon back on the offensive and De Gea's flying save turned away Lambert’s free-kick. Nemanja Vidic flung himself in the way of another Lambert piledriver before Rooney, who finished playing on the left as defensive cover for an overrun Evra, ensured the Saints’ final assault got nowhere.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "Michael's pass-back was a bit soft and Michael held his hand up - its great to see that, honest players like Michael saying, 'Sorry boss, sorry lads.' It's great.
"In the second half Southampton produced the best performance anyone has done here this season. They pushed right on top of us and didn't give us time to settle. But my experience of this club, when you are going for championships, is that there are always games where you can say we were a bit lucky. This was one of those nights."
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: "In the second half we were dominating the game and taking the game to them. We were just a bit unlucky in front of goal. We should have scored at least one. But, especially going forward, the way we played in the second half was the way we want to continue playing.
"Tomorrow we will make our final decision about transfers. We are still deciding so at this moment I can't say what will happen."
|02 Feb 2013||v Fulham (A)|
|10 Feb 2013||v Everton (H)|
|23 Feb 2013||v QPR (A)|
|02 Mar 2013||v Norwich (H)|
|16 Mar 2013||v Reading (H)|
|30 Mar 2013||v Sunderland (A)|