Football: A Wayne Rooney brace helped Manchester United regain their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League, despite a spirited second-half display from Southampton.
The Saints, who haven't won at Old Trafford for 25 years, opened the scoring after just three minutes when Jay Rodriguez pounced on a poor backpass from Michael Carrrick.
Rooney levelled things up five minutes later before scoring the winner midway through the half to secure all three points, though the visitors gave their all in a battling second-half display.
“We won the game and that is the one thing we can take out of the game,” said a relieved Sir Alex Ferguson after the game.
“The second-half the players just found the pitch impossible. We tried to play the way we normally play and we found it difficult because the pitch had dried out a lot, it was an ice cold night and that happens.
“First-half there was an early goal but it didn’t deter us from playing some fantastic football and we could have been four or five up by half-time.
“Once the pitch started to dry out the players found it difficult to play a different way and it really required us to play the ball into gaps which we don’t normally do."
The United manager went on to praise the away side saying: “I thought Southampton in the second-half were the best performance anyone has played here this season."
The visitors went into the game unbeaten in their previous six Premier League matches — their longest unbeaten top-flight run since since the period between August and September 2003.
And they took the lead against their hosts when Rodriguez latched on to Carrick’s uncharacteristically sloppy pass, slotting the ball past an on rushing David De Gea.
But they had also conceded 26 Premier League away goals this season prior to kick-off — only Aston Villa, with 28, had conceded more.
And it was 27 within five minutes of them taking the lead.
Shiji Kagawa released Rooney into the box and the England striker shot low past Artur Boruc to score his eighth goal in nine appearances for the Red Devils.
The roles were reversed moments later when Rooney found Kagawa in the box only for the Japanese international to see his shot ricochet of the post.
Rooney then got his second of the night just before the half-hour mark.
Robin van Persie’s whipped free-kick from the right was met by Patrice Evra who headed the ball across goal, leaving Rooney with the simplest of tap-ins.
But the home side were far from convincing as Southampton continued to boss the league leaders in the second-half, pressing them in all areas of the pitch.
And with new manager Mauricio Pochettino urging his players forward they had several opportunities to draw things level, Ricky Lambert, Steven Davis and Rodriguez having the best of those chances.
“In the second-half we were dominating the game and were taking the game to them,” said Argentinan Pochettino after the game.
“We were just a bit unlucky in front of goal, we should have at least got another goal.
“But especially going forward the way that we played in the second-half is the way that we want to continue playing.”
United’s best chance came when Boruc produced a wonder save to deny van Persie from point blank range, before the Dutchman had the ball in the back of the net only to be adjudged offside.
More attacking football gave the away side a further opportunity to draw things level only for De Gea to produce an top-class flying save to deny Lambert free-kick from just outside the box.
But for all their second-half endeavour Southampton could find the all important equaliser as Ferguson’s men held on for their ninth straight home win of the season.
"We did play well but I'm upset at not getting a draw at least. It doesn't console me," concluded a disappointed Pochettino.
Ferguson however felt that his side were fortunate to walk away with all three points.
He said: “If you look at my experience at the club, when we are going for championships, there is always a game when you say to yourself that you were a bit lucky and I think this was one if those nights.”
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