By Andrew Embling
- Double from Martial helps seals three points for United
- Rooney returned to the starting line-up
Venue: St Mary’s Stadium Attendance: 31,588
Manchester United jumped to second place in the Premier League with a 3-2 win away to Southampton.
United welcomed back captain Wayne Rooney to the line up, but it was his strike partner who once again stole the headlines as the Martial scored twice to hand United the three points.
Southampton made the brighter start, Tadic firing wide after good build up play by Pelle. Southampton’s Italian striker was almost on the end of a dangerous cross from the left as Rojo, in for the injured Luke Shaw at left back, got across in the nick of time to divert away for a corner.
The home side were flying, De Gea making a brilliant save from Mane as he found himself on the end of a Ward-Prowse cross, but Pelle has the simplest of tap-ins as he followed up the loose ball.
United were all at sea, Pelle a width of a post away from doubling the lead as he turned Blind and struck the post from the edge of the area. Ward-Prowse stung the hands of De Gea as the home side continued to threaten, United offering nothing in the final third in the opening 20 minutes.
Southampton were defending brilliantly, United unable to find any penetration moving forward, whilst in contrast the home side were finding more holes than Swiss cheese in United’s defence.
Pelle was out-muscling Blind, whilst Southampton were quicker to every 50-50 as United struggled to get into the game. But just as United were huffing and puffing, they found a little bit of magic from Anthony Martial.
Mata may have been just offside as he found himself free in the area, and although Yoshida did well to tackle the Spaniard, the ball ran to Martial who showed great composure to turn away from van Dijk and cooly slot the ball under Stekelenburg to level.
Southampton had dropped off the pace and hesitation in the area almost allowed Mata a shooting chance, Van Dijk sticking out a despairing foot to just clear in time. United were alive from a corner and a clever set piece almost saw Schneiderlin on the end of a cut back as the Red Devils enjoyed their best spell of the game.
Martial had already showed composure for his first goal, and doubled his money five minutes into the second half as he stroked the ball home after a weak back pass from Yoshida.
Southampton thought they had levelled just before the hour as Fonte flicked a header goalwards, but David de Gea made a brilliant one handed save to claw the ball out and keep United in front. The importance of that save became even more apparent as United stretched their lead further.
The Red Devils were in control of the game and some patient passing ended with a ball inside to Memphis who turned in the area and struck the near post, the rebound falling to Mata who made no mistake to make it 3-1.
Martial was showing pace and power, Van Dijk booked for hauling the Frenchman back as he galloped clear. Southampton appealed for a penalty as Mane went over, but there was little if any contact from Smalling and the referee waved play on.
Memphis struck a free kick over after more good work by Martial had been checked by Fonte’s foul. But Southampton weren’t going down without a fight and set up a nervy final few minutes as Pelle headed them back in with a chance with just four minutes left on the clock.
De Gea came to the rescue again as he turned over Wanyama’s rising drive deep in injury time, then punched away Fonte’s header as they clung on to the lead. But time ran out on Southampton as United took the three points back to Manchester.
Manchester United: De Gea, Darmian (Valencia 46), Smalling, Blind, Rojo (McNair 69), Carrick (Schweinsteiger 60), Schneiderlin, Mata, Rooney, Memphis, Martial Substitutes Not used: Romero, Herrera, Young, Fellaini
Our Man Of The Match: Martial