Anthony Martial scored twice as Manchester United won 3-2 away at Southampton, but Louis van Gaal had David de Gea to thank for keeping them in front.
Last year it was Robin van Persie who scored twice in a narrow win for Louis van Gaal’s side at St Mary’s but now United supporters have a new hero as their £36million deadline-day signing continued his impressive start to life in the Premier League.
Graziano Pelle scored the first and last goals of the game but Martial levelled before the break and benefited from a lapse in concentration from Maya Yoshida to put United in front early after the break, with Juan Mata also on the scoresheet in the 3-2 win.
David de Gea, so nearly a late departure in the transfer window, also shone for United, with one save from Jose Fonte in particular key to the win.
The visitors started poorly as their defence failed to cope with the movement from Southampton’s front four and it was only a matter of time before they were made to pay.
The challenge for Daley Blind at centre-back was always going to come from Pelle, so good in the air, and the Italian got the better of their first aerial dual to set away a Southampton attack that ended with Dusan Tadic firing just wide.
Marcos Rojo did well to clear a Tadic cross away from the onrushing James Ward-Prowse as Saints started to turn the screw.
It was from the very next attack that the home side opened the scoring as Ward-Prowse’s perfect centre was turned towards goal by Sadio Mane, with De Gea only able to push his save into the direction of Pelle who made no mistake in tucking away the rebound.
United were in no way a cohesive unit in defence and more sloppy play saw Pelle played in behind but this time his effort came back off the post.
Morgan Schneiderlin’s aimless header was collected by Mata, who was in an offside position, and as he ran into the box he was well challenged by Yoshida with the ball falling to Martial – who showed composure to control and finish well to level the game.
A short corner routine saw Schneiderlin get away a shot that was deflected behind as United began to enjoy a sustained period of pressure for the first time in the game.
Van Gaal’s side were ahead five minutes into the second half as Yoshida played a tame back-pass towards Maarten Stekelenburg which Martial latched onto before slotting home to turn the game around.
The mistake from the Japan defender seemed to breed indecision in the Saints back four and it was skipper Jose Fonte who was next to surrender possession – with Memphis Depay screwing a shot just wide.
Fonte came close to drawing the hosts level but his near-post header from Tadic’s corner was superbly pushed away by De Gea.
And it proved to be a timely save as United began to show that Van Gaal’s possession-based football does have its benefits as they kept the ball well and were soon two goals clear.
Depay found space in the box after the visitors had passed Southampton to death, drilling an effort off the post with Mata on hand to convert the rebound and all but kill off the contest.
Mata and Depay both missed the target with free-kicks won by the bustling Martial and the final four minutes was made more interesting as Pelle headed home his second after smart work from Mane.
With five minutes of injury time remaining there was still time for De Gea to again show why he is so vital to United as the Spaniard palmed Victor Wanyama’s shot behind for a corner while at full stretch.
That was the last chance for Southampton who could not muster up another – with the three points taking United up to second place in the table with only neighbours Man City ahead of them.