This five goal thriller was a great advertisement for the EPL, with a few memorable displays and one memorable goal, from Juan Mata after 45 (count ‘em! 45!) passes.
It was United’s third, the game’s fourth, and the one that has, perhaps, finally answered some of the questions about the Van Gaal approach and how it’s panning out.
United found themselves a goal down in this one after just 13 minutes, when Graziano Pelle pounced on a loose ball after De Gea had saved.
At that point, in fact up until the half hour mark, these points were very much up for grabs with Southampton playing the better football.
Then the Anthony Martial show started.
It says a lot that Van Gaal started this kid in front of Rooney, and it’s even more telling that the French teenager, signed on the last day of the window for an incredible £36 million, didn’t let the side, or the manager down. He was simply wonderful, and on 34 minutes he turned Southampton’s new signing Virgil Van Dijk to equalise and send the away crowd into raptures.
The Old Trafford faithful haven’t been so excited about a young player since Rooney himself signed from Everton, and the continuing dismal form of the Englishman is only highlighted further when you consider the dynamism of his partner in this match.
With the score poised at 1-1 at half time the script was written for the EPL’s latest wonder kid to pop up and put United in front, and he did that just five minutes after the break.
Eighteen minutes later we had Mata’s strike after a truly extraordinary build-up, a 45 pass move that started in United’s half and criss-crossed the whole of the pitch before it ended up in the back of the net.
Those questions about Van Gaal and his patient style had just been answered in the most amazing fashion, with a fine team goal.
Another amazing stat; Manchester United’s last six shots on target in the EPL have ended in a goal.
All three last week, and now all three this week.
That’s impressive, and will worry the Hell out of opposition defences once this side really begins to motor and create more chances in games.
One thing will concern Van Gaal; the bad defending. Pelle scored another on 86 minutes, and the away team had to hold on as Wanyama and Fonte went close, only to be denied by De Gea’s brilliance between the sticks.
Van Gaal had only one player on his mind at full time though, and that was the French sensation.
“Anthony Martial is already special because we paid a lot of money for him,” he said. “A lot of people are thinking he is a great star but he is a boy of 19. In three matches he has shown a lot.”
Man of the Match:
An easy one. Anthony Martial has exploded onto the EPL scene. A star is born.