Manchester United turned in a vintage performance for the ages with a stunning climb off the canvas victory in the manner of legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Reds looked dead and buried at the break as Ralph Hassenhuttl’s energetic and effervescent Saints raced into a 2-0 lead through two set piece goals from Jan Bednarek and James Ward-Prowse.
What was said at half-time will remain a mystery but Solskjaer put on the veteran Uruguayan to devastating effect as he inspired United to an epic come-from-behind victory.
Here are three observations from St Mary’s:
On your Ed’ (in) son..
Solskjaer’s decision to summon his deadline day act in United’s hour of need seemed a no-brainer at the time and now looks a masterstroke. The Uruguayan may not have age or legs on his side anymore, but he certainly hasn’t lost any of his predatory instinct.
An argument could be had that Cavani should have started but, having played 90 minutes in midweek, an impact role seemed to suit him perfect here. On at half-time for the anonymous Mason Greenwood, first came the diving header as he flung himself at a Bruno Fernandes cross, then he flicked home a Marcus Rashford ball to turn the tie on its head and mark his arrival as a Red.
Cavani played well against Istanbul without getting a goal or perhaps any credit, but made the difference when it mattered. United hadn’t played particularly badly and could count themselves a tad unfortunate to have 2-0 down, missing chances and getting undone through two set plays. But Cavani proved a constant threat, linking the play, unsettling Saints with his movement and twice grabbing his moment with his head to fire United to a fourth consecutive win and taking the Reds up to seventh.
I had my doubts over the values of the Cavani signing, we had been there before with Radamel Falcao and there have been too many expensive flops to get excited about him. But fair play to the veteran striker, he has looked the part since coming in and has dispelled many a doubter.
Henderson makes United league bow
Dean Henderson has plenty of Premier League experience having made his mark during a superb season for the surprise package of Sheffield United last term. The Blades were ninth with Hendo credited as a major part of their shock top-half finish last finish, before returning to the only United worthy of the name.
Henderson had played two games in the EFL Cup and the Champions League tie in Turkey, and started – as expected – with a watching brief from the bench at Southampton. David de Gea picked up an injury, clattering into the post in a vain attempt to stop a James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick (which by the way he should have kept out).
Henderson was on at the interval and kept a clean sheet, having little to do bar a couple of efforts from distance as the Reds turned the screw. With De Gea injured and possibly out of action for a while, Henderson may have his chance to press his claim as the number-one-in waiting. He did little wrong as Saints wilted in the face of a United onslaught and will be proud of his league debut.
Manchester United show courage and character to break club record
For so long, this looked like it was going be yet another let down for United and Solskjaer. 2-0 down against perennially obdurate opponents, United look dead and buried with this Jekyll and Hyde side at their inconsistent worst. But cometh the hour, cometh the man. On came Cavani and up stepped Fernandes. Bruno was majestic, grabbing the opener and setting up the second, epitomising his side’s character and fighting spirit. This was a fightback in keeping with United’s greatest days, proving the old adage true: Never, ever, count Manchester United out. There can be absolutely no doubt that this side are giving everything for their manager: grit, courage, character and determination. In doing so, United established a new club record – winning eight successive top flight away games for the first time ever (Brighton twice, Villa, Palace, Leicester, Newcastle, Everton and Saints) becoming only the third side to do in the Premier League era.
In stark contrast, of course, to the home form with the Reds only registering a first league win at Old Trafford last week in controversial circumstances. United have also come from behind to win in four consecutive league games on the road for the first time in their history, all done so in classic United fashion. Get in! This win lifted United up to seventh, and we’ll be only two points off the top with victory in our game in hand over struggling Burnley. Sir Alex may not have been present in the stands on the south coast, but the great man will have delighted with a result that came straight from his vintage.
Imagine the scenes in the away end…