Southampton 1 Manchester United 2. Two goals from Robin van Persie moved Manchester United up into third spot, although manager Louis van Gaal admitted they were fortunate to get the three points.
Three points, and just three shots on goal the whole night, was United's lowest number in a Premier League game since 2003. Yet of those, two found the net and United now enjoy their best league position since August 2013."The performance was not good enough, we were the lucky team," conceded van Gaal, whose side have now won their last five league games.
Southampton had 15 shots at goal but only Graziano Pelle's found its target and the Saints slipped to fifth after their third consecutive defeat.
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"When you are the better team then of course you deserve more," said van Gaal of Southampton.Ultimately the difference between the two sides was van Persie, whose goals either side of Pelle's effort secured the three points for United.
"We did not lose to Man Utd, we beat ourselves," said Saints manager Ronald Koeman. "We were the better team [but] if you give players like Robin van Persie those chances, he will punish you. We did not punish them and that was the difference… because on football and chances, I think we deserved more."
Van Persie put the visitors one up on 12 minutes when the Dutch striker seized on an error by Jose Fonte, picking up his weak backpass and slotting the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Fraser Forster.Back came Southampton, however, threatening a United defence that was disrupted by the departure on 18 minutes of Chris Smalling. Jonny Evans replaced the injured England defender but he looked hesitant against a Southampton attack spearheaded by Pelle and Shane Long.
It was the Italian who scored the equaliser on 31 minutes, lashing the ball home after the United defence had failed to clear Dusan Tadic's initial shot.Pelle should have given the Saints the lead in the second half only to blast his shot over the bar.Van Persie showed no such profligacy when presented with his chance to score a second. The former Arsenal frontman latched onto the end of Wayne Rooney's free-kick and steered the ball past a statuesque Forster with the outside of his foot.
"It is fantastic to be third in the table but I had hoped to do it with a better performance," said the Manchester United boss, who singled out van Persie for praise. Earlier in the season he had been critical of his compatriot but not on this occasion.
"I think not only the goals are telling something about Robin van Persie, I think also his performance," he said. "He was one of three players on the pitch for Manchester United who were good… he had a great influence on the result and until now it is his best performance."
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