Premier League: Van Gaal: Lucky United did not warrant victory

Ross McLean
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Robin van Persie scored twice despite United only mustering three attempts on target

RELIEVED Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal admitted his side were the beneficiaries of good fortune after escaping the south coast with maximum points following a fifth successive Premier League victory against Southampton last night.

Holland striker Robin van Persie proved the match-winner as his double lifted United to third in the league table while Southampton, who equalised through Graziano Pelle, were left to rue missed chances and defensive errors.

United only mustered three efforts at goal all evening – the lowest of any Premier League team this season – compared to Southampton’s 15, and Van Gaal accepted the Red Devils performance scarcely warranted the win.

“We lost the ball too easily in the first half I think, we didn’t have a very good positional play. The only chances Southampton created were when we lost the ball,” said Van Gaal.

“That was not good, in spite of our good result, because we get a present also from Southampton. You need confidence on the ball which we didn’t have and I said something about that at half time.

“In the second we had a better part of the game but I think Southampton played better than Manchester United and we were the lucky guy.”

United were gifted a 12th minute lead when Saints skipper Jose Fonte attempted a blind backpass to his keeper only for Van Persie to intercept and calmly clip the ball beyond England’s Fraser Forster.

Southampton recovered and looked the more assured, equalising after 31 minutes as Pelle ended a five-match goal drought to net his 10th strike of a productive debut campaign in English football.

The Italy striker fired into the roof of David de Gea’s net after Dusan Tadic’s initial shot was deflected into his path, which all stemmed from a poor cross-field ball by Marouane Fellaini

United lost Chris Smalling to injury while Van Gaal hauled off teenager Paddy McNair for Ander Herrera, as Shane Long blazed over from an acute angle, while Van Persie slammed an effort into the side-netting in first-half stoppage time.

Long was guilty of spurning a further glorious chance shortly after the break as De Gea repelled the Republic of Ireland forward’s free header.

United regained the lead inside the final 20 minutes when Wayne Rooney’s deep, inswinging free-kick was converted at the far post by Van Persie, through the legs of Forster who was glued to his line.

Pelle was denied a leveller by an agile De Gea while full-back Nathaniel Clyne flashed an effort narrowly wide of the Spaniard’s left-hand post with five minutes remaining.