Robin van Persie conceded that Manchester United were not at their best as his brace was enough to see them beat Southampton 2-1.
On a night when much was made of the head-to-head battle between two heavyweight Dutch managers at St Mary’s, it was Holland striker van Persie who delivered the knockout blow to give United their fifth win in a row.
Graziano Pelle deservedly levelled for Saints in the 31st minute after Van Persie’s opener, but 19 minutes from the end the former Arsenal man won the game for the visitors – who only managed three attempts on goal all night.
“I don’t think we played our best football today,” said van Persie. “We were a bit sloppy here and there. We fought hard and in the end we nicked it.
“It was a tough game. They have a good team so we knew what to expect, but I think it’s our fifth straight victory so we are on the way up.”
Van Persie picked up Jose Fonte’s under-hit backpass, before rolling it between Fraser Forster’s legs to open the scoring and then exquisitely flicked home Wayne Rooney’s rangy free-kick delivery late on.
When asked about whether he felt sharp on the night, he said: “Yeah I felt good. To be fair I’ve felt good over the last couple of weeks. Fitness-wise I think I can play 90 minutes easier and tonight I thought keep going and it will come.”
United were clearly below par, but the fact they came through such a stern examination, despite playing poorly and after being forced into a defensive reshuffle early on, will clearly boost boss Louis van Gaal.
Jonny Evans was the man pressed into early action when Chris Smalling had to go off injured in the 18th minute and he explained that he knew he had to be ready, especially given United’s recent injury woes.
“Yeah I think you’re always expecting maybe someone to get injured so I tried to prepare myself mentally but the first 10 minutes were hard, but you expect that in the premier league. Especially away games,” said Evans.
Swansea are appealing the red card shown to goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski during Sunday’s Premier League defeat to West Ham.
The Poland international was dismissed in the 68th minute of the match at Upton Park for impeding West Ham substitute Diafra Sakho as he burst through on goal.