Five great games at St Mary's Stadium
St Mary’s Stadium, home of Saturday’s opponents Southampton, is one of the Premier League’s newer grounds, having first opened its doors in 2001.
It replaced the Dell, a venue where we experienced ups – sealing promotion back to the top flight in 1975 and securing the title in 2000 – and downs, namely three consecutive defeats in the mid-1990s.
At the Saints’ new home, however, United have enjoyed mostly positive experiences, winning 10 and losing just once across 14 visits in the league and cup.
Here are five of our most memorable matches at St Mary’s, starting with our very first trip...
Southampton 1-3 United, January 2002
The Reds had recovered from an early-season blip which saw us sink to ninth at the beginning of December, but Saints away was a tough-looking prospect. United had lost on their final visit to the Dell at the end of the 2000/01 campaign, and when James Beattie powered in a third-minute header, it looked like being another fruitless journey down to Hampshire. Ruud van Nistelrooy – in the middle of a run which would see him score in eight consecutive league games – equalised soon after, but the home side squandered two glorious chances to re-establish their lead, hitting the woodwork through Agustin Delgado and Marian Pahars. A trademark David Beckham free-kick put us in front just before the half-time break, before current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer swept home on the hour mark to send us top of the league.
Southampton 1-2 United, May 2005
This was our second visit to St Mary’s during 2004/05, following a resounding 4-0 win in March that had seen us progress through to the FA Cup semi-final. The league game mattered more for the home side, who were fighting relegation, than it did for us, with a third-place finish behind Chelsea and Arsenal already guaranteed. The Saints started on top and John O’Shea’s own goal gave them an early lead, the defender deflecting Graeme Le Saux’s corner beyond Roy Carroll. Just 10 minutes later, the Irishman made amends, crossing for Darren Fletcher to head in. With results going their way, the home side looked happy to settle for a draw, but van Nistelrooy turned in Alan Smith’s centre early in the second half and, with West Brom winning at the Hawthorns, Southampton were condemned to relegation from the top flight after 27 years.
Southampton 2-3 United, August 2012
It took seven years for Premier League football to return to St Mary’s, with the Saints dropping to League One in 2009. After successive promotions, Nigel Adkins’ side hosted United early in the season in what would go down as a Premier League classic. The home side, roared on by a buoyant crowd, raced into the lead when Rickie Lambert jumped above Rafael at the far post to score, but Robin van Persie – newly signed from Arsenal and fresh from opening his United account the previous week – took advantage of Nathaniel Clyne’s slip to chest down Antonio Valencia’s cross and fire home. If United expected to ease to victory, we were given another shock when future Red Morgan Schneiderlin headed past Anders Lindegaard to make it 2-1 and, when Van Persie saw his penalty saved, it looked like being one of those days for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. Cue a scintillating final five minutes, which started with the Dutchman tapping home after Rio Ferdinand’s header had hit the post, and ended with our no. 20 securing his first United hat-trick in injury-time, to jubilant scenes in the away end.
Southampton 1-2 United, December 2014
Another van Persie masterclass followed two years later, this time under the stewardship of his former Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal, which helped to clinch a vital three points on the south coast on a Monday night just before Christmas in 2014/15. For the first time in the league since 2003, United opened the scoring at St Mary’s when van Persie latched on to a Wayne Rooney pass to slide the ball through the legs of a diving Fraser Forster. However, United had struggled defensively during the early part of the season and Ronald Koeman’s side were soon level, Graziano Pelle smashing the ball beyond David De Gea with his left foot. Southampton had the better of the opportunities thereafter, but the Dutchman struck again in the 71st minute, steering home Rooney’s free-kick to give the Reds a smash-and-grab victory.
United 3-2 Southampton, September 2015
Another striker was the star on our next visit to St Mary’s, with new signing Anthony Martial building on his dream debut against Liverpool by coolly slotting home a brace to send us second in the Premier League table. The Reds once again endured a nightmare start, as Pelle tapped in after De Gea had brilliantly saved from Sadio Mane, and we rode our luck in the opening half an hour, with Saints dominating in terms of possession and chances, before Martial struck either side of half-time. The first was a cool finish after the Frenchman had turned away from Virgil van Dijk in the Saints’ area, while the second owed much to Martial’s anticipation, which helped him run on to Maya Yoshida’s errant backpass and convert past Maarten Stekelenburg. De Gea then produced a miraculous save to stop Jose Fonte from equalising, before Juan Mata scored a third to seemingly secure the win. Pelle reduced the arrears five minutes from time to set up a nervy finish, and De Gea had to pull off another acrobatic effort to deny Victor Wanyama.
OUR COMPLETE RECORD AT ST MARY’S STADIUM
P14 W10 D3 L1 F28 A12
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