Dutch ace turns hairdryer on himself after penalty miss
A hat-trick, an injury-time winner and his 100th Premier League goal, but the first thought of Robin van Persie last night was to publicly chastise himself for a bizarre penalty miss.
With Manchester United trailing Southampton 2-1 at the time of the incident, Van Persie made the sudden decision to try a gentle chipped penalty in the style of Andrea Pirlo during Italy's shoot-out win over England at Euro 2012. Yet rather than direct his soft shot down the middle, he aimed for the corner and duly presented Kelvin Davis with a simple save.
Van Persie probably then saved himself a first blast of Alex Ferguson's hairdryer by scoring twice in the last five minutes to clinch a dramatic 3-2 victory, but there was no hint of self-congratulation.
Indeed, as he collected the man-of-the-match champagne, he actually turned the hair-dryer on himself. "I don't know what I was thinking," said Van Persie. "I wanted to hit it hard, like I always do. In the last second I just changed somehow. It wasn't good enough. I'm quite disappointed about it.
"When you are 2-1 down, you can't take a penalty like that. It is me to blame. I don't know what went wrong, something went wrong big time and I'll have to work on it."
Van Persie's finishing from open play, however, remains just as sharp as last season. He has now scored four times in two starts for United and, after his record-breaking year for Arsenal, is again at the top of the Premier League's goalscoring table.
Van Persie, though, argued that most credit for United's victory should rest with Paul Scholes, whose wonderful passing helped them find their rhythm after he came on as a 61st minute substitute.
"I have to say a big thank-you to Paul Scholes, when he came on everything went ticking," said Van Persie. "Every single pass he hit was the right one. There were a couple of unbelievable passes over 30 or 40 metres. With him you are always on your toes because anything can happen with his qualities.
"For me, he is the man of the match." It was an assessment echoed by Ferguson who, on his 1,000th Premier League match, was once again grateful to his ageless midfielder. "I thought when Paul Scholes came on the pitch it changed the game completely," said Ferguson.
"I thought we were well out of it until Scholes came on. His vision and consistency of passing gave us complete control again. Then it was a matter of scoring the goals and Robin van Persie has come up with two very important goals. He has four goals in two starts. That's a great statistic and he'll get better."
Ferguson was also left with plenty to think about, however, particularly in the way Southampton scored two goals by so successfully targeting Patrice Evra and Rafael with deep crosses. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, who are usually so secure defensively, also struggled.
"Credit to Southampton, they kept building up and getting the ball into the box," said Ferguson.
"Everything we did in preparation for this game was all about back-post crosses and they scored two goals from them, so that was disappointing. I've always said when you play two centre-backs consistently, you get better results.
"Rio's getting there. I think if those two stay fit, and we get all the centre-backs fit, we've got a really good chance."
For Southampton, the experience of playing some exhilarating football, getting themselves into a winning position and then conceding late goals, was almost identical to their defeat against Manchester City by the same score.
Nigel Adkins, the manager, was entitled to take many positives from the performance, with Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana both shining in front of England's Roy Hodgson, but was also questioned over his late substitutes. Lambert, Lallana and Jason Puncheon were all replaced between the 74th and 78th minute, while Southampton were still in a winning position. (© Daily Telegraph, London)