Romelu Lukaku was Manchester United’s match-winner as they saw off a resilient Southampton side at St Mary’s Stadium.
The in-form Belgian scored his sixth Premier League goal in as many matches to ensure Joe Mourinho’s men kept pace with Manchester City at the top of the table.
Southampton enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and had 14 shots on goal, but they could not find a way past United goalkeeper David de Gea. Here are three talking points.
Lukaku is justifying his transfer fee
It’s been a near-perfect start to his Manchester United career for Lukaku, who is currently top of the goal-scoring charts alongside Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Morata. Signed for an initial £75 million, the pressure was on the former Everton striker to prove it was money well spent.
So far, he has surpassed all expectations. Lukaku has fitted in seamlessly at Old Trafford and filled the void left by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury. His goal against Southampton was nothing special, converting a rebound from Ashley Young’s effort, but his ruthlessness in front of goal was just what United required.
The draws that undermined their challenge last season are no more – and Lukaku is a big factor behind that transformation.
Encouragement for Pellegrino despite defeat
Southampton’s results under new manager Mauricio Pellegrino have been patchy, but this performance will give the Argentinian encouragement that they are heading in the right direction.
The Saints took the game by the scruff of the neck after they had conceded and provided more than a few worrying moments for United. Mourinho even had to change his tactics and become more defensive as the home side laid siege in the closing stages.
Goals have been in short supply for Southampton both last season and this, particularly at home, but their supporters would have gone away knowing their side had given it their all.
De Gea underlines his importance to United
Player versus player debates are always subjective, but it is difficult to argue that de Gea is not the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. After a shaky start to his time in England, the Spain international has become a model of consistency between the posts.
His clean sheet against Southampton was the fifth in six top-flight games, with two goals in the draw to Stoke City the only blemishes on his record. For all the plaudits Lukaku and Marcus Rashford have received at the opposite end of the pitch, de Gea has once again underlined his importance to United.
Rumours of a move to Real Madrid persist, but Mourinho will be desperate to hold on to his star stopper.