Van Persie probably did then save himself a first blast of Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary hair-dryer 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.
“I ask a certain standard from my game. 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 United find their rhythm after he was introduced 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.
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 loss to Manchester City by the same score.
Nigel Adkins, the manager, was entitled to take many positives, with Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana both shining in front of 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 winning.
“We made three changes to give us energy in the wide positions and an outlet to give ourselves the opportunity to press them back,” said Adkins. “Unfortunately it was two corners we have conceded from. We have got to attack the ball. We have got a goalscoring threat: our objective now is the concentration levels. We’ve had a winning mentality and it’s a horrible feeling when you don’t win. We’ll pick ourselves up and keep striving.”