Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has admitted his side were “lucky” to have sneaked away three points against Southampton at St. Mary’s stadium on Monday night.
Southampton dominated much of the proceedings, but Graziano Pelle’s effort sandwiched by Robin van Persie’s brace was insufficient to avert a third straight defeat for Ronald Koeman’s men, as United claim their second away win this season to move up to third in the table.
“We needed confidence on the ball, which we didn’t have and I said something about that at half-time. I think we were better in the second-half but Southampton (notwithstanding) played better than us,” Van Gaal told Sky Sports after the match.
United were edgy and too quick to give up possession. Marouane Fellaini gave up the ball in the midfield for Pelle’s leveler. When Wayne Rooney blasted a corner straight out of play, the Red Devils’ lack of wit and determination was written all over the wall. In the end, the contest was won and lost, all thanks to minute details.
Had the South coast hosts taken half of their chances, United should have trailed at half-time but David de Gea’s heroic has become a recurrent headline so far this season, with the Spaniard standing between the opponent and goal in crucial moments.
Van Persie’s Man of the Match vision and precision shaded a host of United’s flop; all said, ‘the end justified the means.’
“Our first goal was a gift and the second was made easier because I saw the goalkeeper coming out of his goal,” Van Gaal recanted. “We were very lucky.
“I didn’t see the confidence that I saw on the training ground earlier this week. We trained very well this week, and I did not see it on the match day- that is the most important time to show yourself.
“We were the lucky team. But I think (winning) is a good signal.”
With attention now shifting to Sunday’s home clash with perennial rivals Liverpool, Van Gaal cannot say if United have gained momentum in the Premier League, despite recording their fifth win in a row and occupying third-place.
“The performance was not good enough so I cannot say it,” he replied, when quizzed on momentum. “You have to improve the performance, train to work hard and that’s it.”
Koeman rues frustrating night
Southampton coach Koeman felt his boys let themselves down against United in front of their home crowd.
The 51-year-old was “disappointed” having watched his side throw caution to the winds in a crucial game. Shane Long and Pelle missed two wonderful openings to have placed the contest beyond a wobbly United before the hour mark- just to mention a few.
He told the club’s YouTube Channel: “We’re disappointed because we were the better team, we didn’t deserve to lose this game. I think we played well.
“I said after the game, we didn’t lose against Manchester United, we lost by ourselves. They are down mentally at the moment, I think that’s normal.
“We pressed in a good way the defenders and after the 1-1, I had a positive feeling but the difference is they punish you for the mistakes what we made.
“I think the two goals, there’s something to learn. The first one, José [Fonte] knows by himself his fault, we had a good reaction. But the second one, we had to do better defending for the free-kick, the ball came a long way.
“We played better than them, we had more ball possession, we had more chances, but finally the result is 1-2 and that’s why we’re very disappointed.”