Louis Van Gaal conceded that Manchester United were lucky winners at Southampton after two goals from Robin Van Persie swept United to third in the Premier League, but tore a strip off Gary Neville for advancing the same view.
“United got away with murder tonight,” Neville said in his role as Sky TV pundit. “As an ex-legend, or legend, he should pay attention to his words,” snapped Van Gaal.
Van Gaal picked out Van Persie for special praise claiming he was one of only three United players to meet the required standard.
“It was not only the goals, but also his performance,” Van Gaal said of Van Persie. “He was one of the three united players who were good. He had a great influence on the result. That was his best performance (for me).
“It’s fantastic to be third in the table but I had hoped we would have done it with better performances. Tonight we were the lucky team. Three good players, the rest were not good. Normally you have six, seven or eight players who are good. Today we had too many who weren’t.”
Van Gaal lost Chris Smalling to injury after 15 minutes and withdrew Paddy McNair half an hour into the game as he abandoned the three-man defence in favour of a back-four.
United had only three shots on goal, there worst return since Opta began collating stats. The visitors were gifted the first goal when Van Persie capitalised on a poor back pass. But Southampton levelled through Graziano Pelle and did enough to take more from the game.
Van Persie, who added a second after the break from a Wayne Rooney free-kick, admitted United were fortunate.
“I don’t think we played our best football today but in the end we nicked it. We are on our way up.” On his first goal, slipped through the Fraser Forster’s legs, Van Persie said. “It was a gamble. I got a bit lucky. Nine times out of ten they don’t go in.”
Southampton boss Ronald Koeman lamented his team’s failure to capitalise on United’s early defensive chaos. “I said to the lads we didn't lose against United, we lost against ourselves,” Koeman said.
“We deserved more. We played our style. We had good ball possession. We did everything. We created chances, but we made mistakes as well. Maybe they ade more but they have players that can handle those mistakes. That was the difference.
“At this level detail makes the difference in football. You can talk about who deserved it, who played offensively, who pressed, but everything is s**t because we lost.
“We have lost the last three games. City were the better team, we deserved more against Arsenal and much more tonight. But give Van Persie that kind of mistake and he will punish you. We did not punish their mistakes. And that’s it.