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Monday 03 September 2012

Ferguson: Scholes the catalyst for United comeback

Manchester Utd manager praises Paul Scholes for game-changing appearance as substitute

  • Man Utd's Robin van Persie rifles in the second goal of his hat-trick at St Mary's Stadium

Ferguson hails Scholes

Sir Alex Ferguson commended Robin van Persie for his match-winning hat-trick but pointed to the impact of second-half substitute Paul Scholes as the crucial factor in Manchester United's dramatic 3-2 victory against Southampton.

Van Persie redeemed himself for a second-half penalty miss by scoring a crucial treble – with two goals coming in the last five minutes of play – as United twice came back from behind to win at the south-coast club.

"When Paul Scholes came on the pitch he changed the game completely"
Sir Alex Ferguson

The Dutchman's added-time winner was a memorable way to crown a century of Barclays Premier League goals and a poignant way to celebrate Ferguson's 1,000th match in charge of the Red Devils.

"Van Persie had a fantastic game, absolutely," Ferguson told Sky Sports, "but when Paul Scholes came on the pitch he changed the game completely."

"I thought we were more or less in control in the first half but once we went on the back foot and Van Persie scored a fantastic equalising goal, so you're thinking, 'let's get down to business in the second half and get this game done'.”

Penalty miss

Rickie Lambert, on 16 minutes, and Morgan Schneidelin, 10 minutes into the second half, each gave Saints the lead, but there was no stopping the Dutchman, even if Kelvin Davis did his best by saving his soft, chipped penalty.

Van Persie struck on 87 minutes and again in added time to take the wind out of Saints' sails. According to Ferguson, though, Scholes was the catalyst.

"His vision and control gave us complete control"
Sir Alex Ferguson

"Credit to Southampton, they kept putting the ball into the box – and we did prepare crosses towards the back post before game – and they scored two goals from them," he said. "And then I thought we were well out of it before Scholes came on.

"His vision and consistent passing gave us complete control in the game and Van Persie has come up with two very, very important goals. He's got four goals in two starts. It's a fantastic statistic and he will only get better."

"Also Chicharito came on and made a difference," Sir Alex added of the Mexican, making his first appearance of the campaign. "Stretching [the defence], running in between them and making runs off the ball. I was delighted with his performance."

Adkins lament

Southampton manager Nigel Adkins admitted his side committed defensive lapses after losing an encounter they were leading with three minutes to go.

"I've just seen the two goals and at the end of the day they're two free headers - you can talk about football all day long but you've got to defend better than that," he said.

"We want to play football a certain way, we want to pass it about"
Nigel Adkins

"Manchester United always finish the game strong. Over the years Sir Alex has done a good job of doing that with his teams. We just didn't have enough with the couple of goals we conceded at the end."

"We've changed the front three to try to give us more energy, the lads put a great shift in today and we're looking for the impact to come off the bench to give us that physical prowess you need but we're playing against top-quality players and, if you don't press the ball and close down sufficiently, they're going to pick a pass."

Despite not picking up any points from their opening three Premier League matches, Adkins was philosophical in this third defeat despite his side suffering a similar 3-2 reverse at the hands of Manchester City on the opening day.

"We're going to remain positive, we knew looking at the first four fixtures that they were going to be challenging," he said.

"Loads of positives. The chairman's done great to bring a few more players in the transfer window, the lads will go on international duty now, then we'll come back, regroup and look forward to the next game.

"We want to play football a certain way, we want to pass it about. Rickie Lambert did well with the physical side of the game today, got a great goal which is something we've worked on in training, and I thought Morgan Schneiderlin's goal was an excellent one. James Ward-Prowse is also an outstanding talent."

In the event, it was one of those players, Ben Arfa, who rescued a point for Newcastle with a trademark stunning strike.

Pardew praises Ben Arfa

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was full of praise for Hatem Ben Arfa, whose specatcular drive salvaged a 1-1 draw for his side at home against Aston Villa.

Villa had taken a deserved lead through Ciaran Clark's 22nd-minute header with the home side lacking any real cohesion, but the Frenchman took it upon himself to drag them back into the game with 59 minutes played when he cut in from the left and crashed a right-footed shot high past Brad Guzan and into the top corner.

"Ben Arfa has been our best player from the start of the season"
Alan Pardew

"Hatem is a wonderfully-gifted footballer," said Pardew. "I didn't actually realise it was his right foot until I just watched the replay because I didn't expect him to hit it with that power.

"He has got exceptional power in amongst all his technique and as I say, he has been our best player from the start of the season."

Lambert lauds Villa

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert, meanwhile, left the north-east delighted with the efforts of his players after they collected their first point of the season following a tough start.

"I thought we were well worthy of it, to be perfectly honest," he said. "We came here, a really difficult place to play with the crowd right on Newcastle's side. The young lads were excellent throughout the game.

"I was delighted with the way they played, they were very, very good"
Paul Lambert

It took a wondergoal to pin us back and we also had really good chances to win the game. But I was delighted with the way they played, they were very, very good."

Lambert took the bold decision to drop 36-year-old keeper Shay Given and replace him with Guzan, although the American fully justified his inclusion with fine saves from Papiss Cisse before the break and Cabaye at the death.

The manager said: "Any decision you make to leave anybody out is really, really tough. Shay is a world-class goalkeeper and has been for the last 15 years, but I made a decision I thought was right for the football club and the two saves Brad made, one in the first half and the free-kick at the end, were world class."

Sunday match reports, statistics and photos

Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal >>>

Southampton 2-3 Manchester United >>>

Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa >>>

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Key Points

  • Sir Alex Ferguson pays tribue to Paul Scholes for defeat of Southampton
  • Scot hails hat-trick hero Robin Van Persie but reserves special praise for substitute midfielder
  • Adkins philosophical despite third successive Premier League defeat