Manchester United were pretty good in the first-half -- aside from the terrible blunder by the trio of Anderson, Michael Carrick, and David de Gea that gifted Southampton an early goal -- but they were horrific in the second-half. Fortunately, from a United perspective, they somehow held on for victory.
As just mentioned, inside of three minutes, Anderson irresponsibly gave the ball away in midfield and when Carrick tried to regain possession, a terrible first-touch and a then ill-advised backpass (I think that's what it was at least) resulted in de Gea tamely trying to rescue the situation -- which the Spaniard failed to do. Jay Rodriguez was given the easiest goal he will ever score from this comedy of errors. A lively Wayne Rooney, though, would equalise just five minutes later after Shinji Kagawa played a lovely through-ball to slip the Englishman through for a clinical finish.
Just a minute after Rooney's goal, Kagawa nearly scored himself when he he hit the post from close range. With Southampton's brave pressing and United's typical positive approach at home, an open first-half resulted. Sir Alex Ferguson's side could never quite gain control of the match -- due to inconsistent play from the midfield and also due to very poor pitch conditions -- but they were the better side for opening 45 (+2) minutes of the contest. When Rooney put the home side ahead in the 27th minute -- after Patrice Evra brilliantly squared a header to him from the far-post after a Robin van Persie free-kick -- they were fully deserving of their lead. Soon after, assistant coach Mike Phelan could be heard shouting instructions for United to all-out press high up the pitch. The Reds probably deserved another goal prior to half-time but it never came. But a shambolic second-half did follow.
As is worryingly typical this season, United slowly came out of the break and game lulled on for sometime. Usually, though, they wake up by the hour-mark or so but instead, it was Southampton that gained confidence and they were generally the more dangerous side for the remainder of the match. Half-time substitute, Adam Lallana, sparked the Saints' attack but for the most part, their finishing left a lot to be desired. Rickie Lambert, though, did put a decent attempt on goal in the 77th minute from a free-kick but de Gea was there to cover with a tremendous denial. van Persie nearly added a third goal for United -- in one of their few good attempts in the second-half -- but Artur Boruc made the save of the match with an incredible reflex clearance off the line. Seconds after that, van Persie did put the ball in the back of the net but the linesman rightly ruled him offside. From here, the home side simply tried to hold on for victory -- which they ultimately. Nemanja Vidic deserves credit for his terrific defending in the second-half.
All in all, a poor performance by United but more importantly, they gained all three available points. After Manchester City's shock 0-0 draw yesterday with bottom-of-the-table Queens Park Rangers, the red side of Manchester is now seven points clear in the title race. Next up is Fulham at the weekend at Craven Cottage.