Manchester United vs. Southampton: Final score 2-1, Rooney brace powers United comeback

Alex Livesey

A Wayne Rooney brace ensured that Manchester United came from 1-0 down to overcome -- just about -- a very plucky Southampton side that pushed them all the way in an enthralling match.

If 'relegation threatened team comes to Old Trafford' has been thoroughly scripted over the years, the opening of the game wasn't standard fare. Manchester United began the match holding possession against their guests but were undone in the second minute by a pair of bizarre errors. Michael Carrick opted to present David de Gea with an incredibly difficult aerial backpass, and the goalkeeper compounded the error by refusing to go into a challenge with Jay Rodriguez.

Instead, de Gea leapt over the ball, missing it completely, and that left the Saints striker free on goal from a tight angle. The slightly bemused 23-year-old rolled the ball into the empty net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

It wouldn't last. Stung into action, United burst forward, and Rooney got them back on level terms after a delightful ball from Shinji Kagawa cleared Maya Yoshida and landed at the England international's feet. It wasn't a difficult finish, and Rooney made no mistake in smashing past Artur Boruc to make it 1-1 in the 8th minute.

And Rooney wasn't done there. United were still on the attack and nearly breached the Saints defence again shortly thereafter when a cross picked him out with his back to goal. Instead of turning and shooting, Rooney instead touched the ball to Kagawa, whose effort beat Boruc but cannoned back off the near post.

United got their second 27 minutes in, when a needless free kick given up by Rodriguez led to Patrice Evra setting up Rooney with a header across goal, leaving the striker with an easy tap-in. Southampton weren't cowed by going behind, however, and they pressed the hosts back with renewed intent. That led, of course, to an open, end-to-end game, and Danny Welbeck really should have made it 3-1 when he wriggled clear of the defence only for his shot to come back off Boruc's legs.

The second half followed the same sort of fashion as the end of the first, and for some time it looked as though the visitors were going to get another past De Gea. The goalkeeper nearly helped them out when he dropped a free kick with a crowd of yellow shirts crashing down on his goal, while at the other end of the pitch Robin van Persie had a goal disallowed for offside just after Boruc had kept him out with a superb save.

De Gea made up for some of his earlier errors with a flying save on a Ricky Lambert free kick with 77 minutes gone, then Boruc denied Rooney when the striker was racing in on goal. It was Southampton who provided most of the action towards the end of the match, and Lambert really should have drawn the Saints level when he found himself with a free shot in the box.

But the late rally wasn't enough. Despite a valiant effort, the visitors join the long list of teams who've come to Old Trafford and lost this season.

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