But ‘Robin Van Perfect’ gives United the points…
MANCHESTER UNITED don’t have the best of records with regards to Southampton away and although The Dell has been consigned to history, for a lot of today’s game, that trend looked to continue. Anders Lindegaard replaced David de Gea in goal, Rio Ferdinand returned and Danny Welbeck came back into the side. The effectiveness of Nemanja Vidic so far this season can be debated, but his return and the presence of Rio will at the very least allow our playing staff to play where they are supposed to; Carrick in midfield, Valencia on the wing and away we went.
United started brightly, Carrick played incisive passes through to Van Persie, and the striker turned supplier to Welbeck although nothing came of the forward play. At the back people will debate the ‘keeper selection but there was one notable point early on, Lindegaard making the choice to run the ball down and boot clear, making the choice for his defender, possibly the kind of decisiveness the back four don’t get from de Gea.
Southampton have a habit of finding clever, niggly, thorn in your side types for the number seven shirt, and Ricky Lambert is no exception, from early on his battle with Ferdinand looked interesting. Southampton used to believe anything could happen when they got the ball to Matt Le Tissier, now Lambert is the man to make things happen for them and boy did he when he gave the home side the lead. Puncheon crossed for Lambert to head at the far post and United conceded the first goal again. It would be incredibly helpful to our season if we broke this habit soon.
Robin Van Persie’s left foot came to the rescue for United and we are within our rights at this point to ask if the new man will ever score a scruffy goal (that bit’s important). The equalising goal owed a lot to Valencia and luck as it was his cross and a stumble from the Southampton defender but, in that position, you don’t really expect any other outcome although we know now he is only human as he would show later. Antonio Valencia overall had a bright game, he gave Pat Evra the chance to leap like a salmon for a header and he did always look to put the ball into dangerous areas, at some points he seemed overly fond of playing it along the floor instead of crossing.
In the second half it was that man Lambert who crossed for Morgan Schneiderlin to find the net, blaming Patrice Evra is tempting but unfair, United were 2-1 down and Southampton looked good value for it. Schneiderlin’s goal was the cherry on the icing on the cake for Southampton, Lambert we’ve discussed but the boy Puncheon also created issues for our defence. At one point Puncheon found himself in possession and ambling through the United half like it was a training exercise. United’s defence also created issues for themselves; at times they casually played the ball around the back which just kept Southampton smelling blood, and when Lindegaard was forced into a weak kick to clear, it just invited a Ricky Lambert header, thankfully, Rafael made sure nothing substantial came from it but it’s fair to say the home side’s display forced Sir Alex’s hand when he brought Paul Scholes on from the bench. We needed to take the sting out of the game and hold possession more when we had it, Scholes’ influence was instant as he threaded Van Persie through. Kelvin Davis saved but United’s intent was clear, good job too, because it had to be.
Kelvin Davis went from hero to villain, as he dithered and hurriedly cleared the ball from his area Nani rushed on, collected the ball and found Van Persie in the area, Hooiveld brought Robin down for the stoniest of stone wall penalties. Here’s the moment we alluded to earlier, the moment we found out that he was human, the penalty was cute, he tried to dink the ball but Davis denied him his second goal…for the moment.
As if to help Given to Score out, Robin soon answered the second question we pondered, as he equalised for United with what for him must count as a scruffy goal. Rio tried himself to find the net with a header, found only the post and the rebound was Robin’s for a tap in. The scores were level and Manchester United had once again saved their necks and done so with plenty of time to go for the win, it is Manchester United’s way.
The third goal gained the points, Van Persie claimed a landmark goal and a hat-trick for his new club, away from Old Trafford, having been 2:1 down. It is not our intention to bypass neither this achievement nor the quality of the goals, or the man who scored them; given any amount of time or space Van Persie seems to be able to make that kind of difference and we will need that this season, well done to him. The hat-trick, however, should not distract from the issues that presented themselves in this game and those that have gone before it. United seemed to be able to get the ball around the areas where they could do some damage, only for someone to take a touch away from the Southampton penalty area rather than cutting into it. Perhaps this is a compliment to the way Southampton played but as good as they were I think we made their defence look Italian at times. Whilst ours looked Brazilian.
Three games in, Everton, Fulham and Southampton prove that Manchester United have issues to resolve; and we don’t mean who should start in goal?