MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Jan 30, 2013 (AFP) - Wayne Rooney scored
twice to cancel out Jay Rodriguez's opener as Manchester United moved
seven points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 2-1 victory
over Southampton on Wednesday.
Alex Ferguson's side have now won 11 of their 12 home matches in the league this season.
for the 12th time in the current league campaign they fell behind when
Rodriguez made the most of a David de Gea error to open the scoring. Of
those 12 occasions United have only failed to win three times and
Rooney summed up that character with two first-half goals that made it
nine in nine matches for the England striker. But United had to
endure a strong second-half performance from the visitors and some
jittery moments in the closing stages to secure their victory. After
emerging with credit from a goalless draw from his first game in charge
against Everton, this was another performance full of positives for new
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino.
United boss Ferguson
could hardly have selected a more attack-minded line-up but once again
his defence let him down as the league leaders fell behind after two
minutes. Morgan Schneiderlin's ball was cut out by Michael Carrick who lobbed a back-pass towards de Gea. But
the Spanish goalkeeper was weak in his challenge of Rodriguez and the
striker rolled the ball into the net for an easy finish. The lead
was to last just five minutes, with Shinji Kagawa clipping through an
incisive pass for Rooney to get in behind and guide a shot past Artur
Boruc to pull the hosts level. They should have moved ahead just
over a minute later when a Phil Jones cross was allowed all the way
across the box and Kagawa was only denied by the post.
refused to sit back and a Rickie Lambert free-kick glanced off the wall
and wide before Gaston Ramirez also thumped a free-kick well
off-target. But the hosts were soon threatening again and after
Robin van Persie cut in from the right his shot was deflected just over
the bar by Maya Yoshida.Just before the half-hour, United did get
their second goal when van Persie floated a free-kick to the far post,
Patrice Evra headed back across goal and Rooney touched in from less
than a yard out.
Lambert headed over from a Schneiderlin corner at
the other end before Danny Welbeck almost ended his goal drought when
he calmly collected a van Persie pass only to be denied by Boruc. Pochettino made a double change at the interval as he looked to spark his team and Lambert forced a decent save from de Gea. Lambert also thumped wide from just outside the area as Southampton continued to grow in confidence after the break. Steve
Davis also drove well wide as the Saints pressed and de Gea had another
anxious moment when he fumbled a Lambert free-kick only to grab the
ball at the second attempt.
Ferguson threw on defenders Rio
Ferdinand and Rafael as he looked for some stability and Rooney finally
showed some attacking impetus as he had a low drive held by Boruc. After the Poland keeper pulled off a fine save from van Persie, the Dutchman had a header ruled out for offside. De Gea then went some way to redeeming himself for his early error with a fine save from Lambert's curling free-kick. Boruc
was also out quickly to prevent Rooney from scoring a third but Nemanja
Vidic pulled off a fine block from Lambert before Schneiderlin drove
well over as Southampton refused to yield.
by Graham Chase
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