Rickie Lambert put the hosts in front just before the half-hour, although United were angry with his challenge on outgoing captain Nemanja Vidic in the build-up, but Juan Mata’s delicious second-half free-kick ensured a share of the spoils.
Ryan Giggs opted to start Rio Ferdinand and Vidic together for the final time and it was the skipper at the centre of the game’s first moment of controversy on seven minutes, when he accidentally brushed the ball clear with his arm as Adam Lallana threatened, but referee Mike Dean waved away the home side’s appeals.
Three minutes later, Lallana backheeled Victor Wanyama’s edge-of-the-box effort straight at David De Gea, before Luke Shaw, heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford, headed over and Lallana, again, fired a curling shot at De Gea. The breakthrough arrived on 28 minutes as Saints deservedly took the lead.
Vidic jumped for a challenge with Lambert, with the ball falling to Steven Davis. As the United skipper lay sprawled on the ground, Lambert escaped the attentions of Ferdinand, latching on to Davis’ neat through-ball and finishing emphatically past De Gea. Vidic, blood streaming from his nose, and the Reds were furious that no free-kick had been given as the Saints celebrated.
After receiving treatment, Vidic returned to power a header wide at the other end, while Chris Smalling fired a shot just past Artur Boruc’s right-hand post.