Manchester United came back from a half-time deficit to defeat Southampton 3-2 at Old Trafford, thanks to a late winner from Romelu Lukaku. The 88th minute winner was Lukaku’s second goal of the day, after a brilliant goal from Andreas Pereira had initially drawn United level.
United started the match with purpose, no doubt aware that the earlier draw between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had opened an opportunity to climb up the table. Within the first five minutes, Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn was called into action three times, two of those to deny Lukaku.
Gunn’s heroics seemed to galvanize the Saints, and the visitors settled into the game. Chris Smalling was lucky not to concede a penalty for (you guessed it) a shirt grab on an opponent. United had not yet been able to retake control of the game when Southampton went ahead out of nowhere.
Ashley Young misjudged a cross field pass from Paul Pogba, giving Southampton possession from the resulting throw-in inside of United’s half. Yann Valery picked up the ball in what looked to be a fairly unthreatening position, but the full-back blasted a ferocious shot from outside the box that caught everyone by surprise - including, crucially, David de Gea, who got a hand to the ball but was still unable to prevent the goal.
Misjudging the flight of the ball was a recurring theme in the first half. Ten minutes after going behind, United should have been level. Unfortunately, Lukaku got his timing wrong and spurned a point blank header from Andreas Pereira’s pinpoint cross.
United managed to create a few more half chances before the break, but were fortunate as well to not be further behind. Young clipped Ryan Bertrand in the box, but for the second time, the referee declined to award the visitors a penalty.
Five minutes into the second half, the injury bug struck again. Alexis Sánchez went down holding his calf, and was replaced by Diogo Dalot. Solskjaer adjusted the shape of the team to match Southampton’s 3-5-2 formation. The substitute almost made an immediate impact. After some clever dribbling from the right wing, his cross found Marcus Rashford at the far post, but the striker placed his header wide.
Andreas Pereira leveled the score in the 53rd minute with a goal that surpassed the opener in quality. A full 25 yards out, the young midfielder cut inside and curled an unstoppable shot out of the reach of Gunn and into the top corner.
Minutes later, Pereira was the heart of the action again. The Brazilian showed great tenacity at the edge of the box to evade his defender and poke the ball through to Lukaku. Lukaku shifted his body and guided a low shot into the far corner of the net to put the Reds ahead. United’s number 9 is still not in the form of last season, but the goals are starting to come.
Southampton refused to go quietly. In the 75th minute, Young conceded a free-kick in a dangerous area. The Saints have multiple players that are a threat from direct set pieces, and this time it was James Ward-Prowse who stepped up. The midfielder bent his dead ball up and over the wall, and past the reach of De Gea.
The game looked set for a frustrating draw, and perhaps a deserved result for a United team that had been sloppy for long stretches. But two minutes before full time, Lukaku struck again. Fred had only just come on for Pereira, and the Brazilian flicked the ball to Lukaku at the edge of the box. Big Rom’s confidence is higher than it has been in months, and he shaped a shot around the covering defender and into the corner of the net.
In injury time, Rashford was unceremoniously brought down in the box and United were awarded a penalty. Pogba had the chance to inflate the scoreline, but Gunn had one more bit of excellence left in him - he saved the spot kick with his feet.