Robin van Persie hit a dramatic hat-trick as Manchester United fought back to win 3-2 at Southampton in Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1,000th league game in charge.
Van Persie looked like ruining Ferguson’s landmark celebrations when he missed a penalty with United trailing 2-1 midway through the second half at St Mary’s.
But the Dutch forward showed why Ferguson splashed out £24 million to sign him from Arsenal last month with two clinical finishes in the final three minutes to snatch the points from Southampton’s grasp.
“Van Persie has come up with three important goals. He’s got four now in two starts, it’s a great statistic,” Ferguson said.
“But I thought (substitute) Paul Scholes changed the game. His vision and passing helped us get complete control.”
Rickie Lambert had headed Southampton into the lead from Jason Puncheon’s 16th minute cross, but van Persie equalised seven minutes later with a fine strike after Nathaniel Clyne slipped while trying to reach Antonio Valencia’s cross.
Southampton, who are bottom of the table after losing their first three matches back in the top-flight after a seven-year absence, regained the lead 10 minutes after half-time when midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin directed a diving header past United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
Van Persie won a penalty when Jos Hooiveld fouled him in the 69th minute, but Kelvin Davis saved the Dutchman’s chipped spot-kick.
Determined to make amends for that blunder, van Persie bagged the 87th minute equaliser with a close-range finish before heading the winner from Nani’s corner in stoppage-time.