SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) Anthony Martial scored twice on his first Premier League start as Manchester United came from behind to beat Southampton 3-2 in the Premier League on Sunday.
Graziano Pelle put Southampton ahead from close range after an outstanding David De Gea parried a point blank volley from Sadio Mane in the 13th minute, but United equalized with its first notable attack. Maya Yoshida tackled Juan Mata as he controlled a high pass but Martial was on hand to slot in the loose ball inside the penalty area.
Martial got his second with a composed finish after Yoshida under-hit a pass to his goalkeeper in the 50th. Mata secured the win when he slotted in the rebound after Memphis Depay hit the post.
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Pelle pulled a goal back with a header in the 86th, but De Gea made several late saves to help secure the win.
Wayne Rooney’s return from a hamstring problem allowed Louis van Gaal to select his captain in a three-man attack alongside Memphis Depay and Martial for the first time this season and the 19-year-old Martial, who joined from Monaco for a fee which could cost United up to 80 million euros ($90 million), shone for his new side.
The victory moves United second in the Premier League on 13 points, only two behind fierce rival Manchester City.
”I am very happy that with three matches, Martial has adapted to the system and he has three goals,” Van Gaal said. ”That’s the most important thing of a striker, that he scores goals. He can improve, he has a high level of talent and he shows it under great pressure.”
It was Southampton which began the game with the most attacking intent and Ronald Koeman’s side deservedly took the lead after 13 minutes.
James Ward-Prowse whipped an inviting low cross into the penalty area and Mane guided the ball goalward on the bounce, only for De Gea to beat it away.
But Pelle was first to the rebound and Southampton went ahead.
Pelle almost doubled the advantage moments after, weaving past Daley Blind before steering a low drive against the outside of the post.
But United slowly recovered and hauled itself level in the 34th. Juan Mata controlled a high ball over the top of the Southampton defense before Maya Yoshida tackled. The ball fell loose and Martial reacted quickest, rolling away from Virgil van Dijk and slotting low into the corner.
Yoshida gifted United and Martial the second five minutes after the interval. Under no pressure, his concentration lapsed as he passed the ball back to Maarten Stekelenburg.
The delivery was badly under-hit and Martial raced to the ball and beat the goalkeeper again.
”We lost belief in the game after the second goal,” Koeman said. ”I hate players who play the ball back to the goalkeeper. Play the ball in the space, in front.”
Southampton pushed forward in search of an equalizer, and captain Jose Fonte thought he had it when he sent a towering header goalward on the hour mark.
But De Gea, falling to his right, somehow lifted his left arm up to claw the ball away when it was already behind his shoulder.
United appeared to make the game safe on 68 minutes.
Depay latched onto a neat pass in the penalty area from Bastian Schweinsteiger. He span inside on his right, wrongfooting two Southampton defenders but blasted his shot against the post, before Mata converted the rebound.
But Southampton was not finished.
Mane picked out Pelle with a precise cross on the right, and the Italy striker’s header was too pin-point even for De Gea to keep out with four minutes remaining.
And Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama would have thought the same when he unleashed a thunderous left-footed drive from 25 meters (yards) on the stroke of fulltime.
But De Gea leapt across to his right and got a firm hand to the ball to deny what appeared a certain goal and secure United’s win.