Is it possible to be a legend in two clubs within two consecutive seasons? Robin Van Persie may just be on his way to being that. This like the other two previous matches was not Utd at its best. They are leaking goals, getting bossed in the midfield, and coincidentally like Arsenal last season, over reliant on Van Persie for their scoring. Against the Saints, they had no answer to Ricky Lambert who rose unmolested into the air to head the ball from a cross by Jason Puncheon past Anders Lindegaard. The opportunity arose when Morgan Schneiderlin reading Tom Cleverley’s pass stole the ball from Shinji Kagawa and then fed Puncheon.
Utd came back as Van Persie taking advantage of Nathaniel Clyne losing his footing chested a cross and thumped it past Kelvin Davies. It was another slip this time by Patrice Evra allowing Schneiderlin to give the Saints the lead in the second half. Could this be a miracle at St Mary’s? Sir Alex immediately made a double switch bringing in Paul Scholes in place of the lackluster Cleverley and Nani for the invisible Kagawa. And things improved considerably as Scholes connected with Van Persie almost immediately. The former Arsenal striker could not convert and in the next few minutes also made a hash of a spot kick after Jos Hooiveld brought him down with a tackle from behind. It’s hard to characterize but RVP might have tried a panenka but instead it mutated into a ugly wobble which Davies was able to swat away while prone on the ground. The miracle at St Mary’s was still alive.
Then came the game changer. Don’t you love that word? It’s so American. Nigel Adkins takes off Puncheon, Lambert, and Adam Lallana and brings in Guly, Emmanuel Mayuka, and Jay Rodriguez. The attacking zest is gone and the Saints now just close shop which if you’ve followed enough Utd matches means you’re essentially going to self immolate. And that is what happened as an impatient Sir Alex warned his players tapping on his watch. With time running out, Utd forced corner after corner and from one of them Rio Ferdinand thumped a header that came off the upright and Van Persie was at hand to pounce on it. It was the 87th minute. Immediate rationalization being this would still count as a moral victory for the Saints even if they came away with a draw. But Van Persie had one more trick up his sleeve, swiveling his head perfectly to guide Nani’s cross past Davies in extra time. The miracle was over.