SOUTHAMPTON // Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, was surprised at Robin van Persie's lackadaisical penalty but will let him off the hook after his hat-trick helped them twice come from behind to beat Southampton.
The Holland international looked set to get his first taste of the famous hairdryer treatment after wasting an opportunity to draw level with a cheeky penalty attempt that was saved by Kelvin Davis.
However, Van Persie's late double turned the game on its head and earned United a 3-2 victory, much to Ferguson's - and the former Arsenal striker's - relief.
"I was surprised because every time I have seen him take a penalty he rattles it in the corners," the United manager said of Van Persie, who reached 100 Premier League goals yesterday.
"He made up for it, though. He had six attempts on goal and was a real threat.
"His first goal was absolutely magnificent - the control and then to bury it away. It was a really, really good goal.
"His header was excellent too, but he has been a terrific player for us"
Southampton had looked on course for a famous victory after twice going ahead.
Rickie Lambert headed the hosts in front after 16 minutes and they responded well to Van Persie's leveller as Morgan Schneiderlin put them in front once again in the second half with a well-placed header.
However, it was not to be for Southampton and, while Van Persie will take the headlines, Ferguson was quick to highlight the 61st-minute introduction of Paul Scholes as the game changing moment.
"We didn't start playing until Paul Scholes came on the pitch, to be honest with you," he said. "I thought he changed the game right around.
"We worked all week on the strength of Southampton with their back post crosses and they scored two goals from it.
"We have got to give them credit for that, they are good at it. In that period when they scored the second we were well out of it.
"Paul Scholes came on and brought composure, a consistency of passing and made the difference."
While Ferguson struck a relieved figure at the end of his 1,000th league game at the United helm, counterpart Nigel Adkins was left to rue what might have been.
Just like at Manchester City two weeks ago, his side gave up a 2-1 advantage to lose 3-2 and, while frustrated, the manager was keen to highlight the positives.
"For a newly promoted club we have scored two goals in open play against a Man United side packed full of experience," Adkins said.
"Lambert had an exceptional game, Jason Puncheon had a superb game as did Adam Lallana.
"I thought they had worked very hard and we made the substitutions to bring more energy into the side.
"You get punished at the highest level. [Nathaniel] Clyne slips and Van Persie puts the ball into the net.
"In the second half, we were buzzing. But they kept possession of the ball. It's two corners we have conceded from."
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