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Sunday, 13 January, 2002, 21:18 GMT
Man Utd go top
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United breaks away from the Southampton defence
A Solskjaer goal gave Man Utd a two-goal cushion
Southampton 1-3 Manchester United
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Manchester United moved to the top of the Premiership for the first time this season by beating a lively Southampton at the St Mary's Stadium.

But as so often this season, Sir Alex Ferguson's team preferred to take the tough route to victory, coming from behind to claim the three points.

It's terrific to be at the top of the table
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

James Beattie gave Southampton an early lead, but goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy, David Beckham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took United top.

Van Nistelrooy's goal saw him equal a Premier League record by scoring for the seventh successive match.

Southampton, having beaten Chelsea and Liverpool in their last two games, were no pushovers and indeed in the first-half dominated the match.

  Match facts
3 mins: James Beattie puts Saints ahead
9 mins: Ruud van Nistelrooy equalises for Manchester United
45 mins: David Beckham gives United the lead from a free-kick
63 mins: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gives United a two-goal cushion

And had Agustin Delgado and Marian Pahars found the net rather than the woodwork before United went ahead, the game might have taken a very different turn.

Beattie's goal stemmed from a tactic that proved a constant irritant to the Manchester United defence during the game - a cross from the right.

Dodd's inswinging delivery was met with a powerful header from Beattie, who easily outjumped Laurent Blanc.

Delgado debut

But midway through the opening period, the Saints striker was stretchered off the pitch after injuring his ankle as he jumped for the ball with Gary Neville.

Beattie's replacement was Ecuadorian international Delgado.

And on his debut, Delgado did not take long settling into the English game, sending a header thudding against the post from Anders Svensson's cross.

Marian Pahars congratulates James Beattie after the striker gives Southampton the led against Manchester United
Beattie scored, but was later stretchered off

Soon after, from an astute Fabrice Fernandes pass, he set up Marian Pahars, who hit a shot which struck the bar.

At he other end, Van Nistelrooy's record-equalling goal came from a devastating breakaway involving David Beckham and Paul Scholes.

Scholes' final touch set Van Nistelrooy's free and he made no mistake as he slid the ball past Paul Jones.

We're still in the relegation battle
Southampton captain Jason Dodd

In first-half stoppage time, Beckham, who had a quiet game up to that point, stepped up to curl a low free-kick past Paul Jones.

On 55 minutes, his inswinging cross found Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose glancing header rebounded off the bar.

But just past the hour, Solskjaer made the game safe for United when he swept the ball into the net after being teed up by Van Nistelrooy.

Southampton: Jones, Dodd, Bridge, Lundekvam, Williams, Telfer, Fernandes (Ormerod 60), Svensson, Marsden, Beattie (Delgado 26), Pahars.
Subs Not Used: Moss, Monk, Petrescu.

Booked: Marsden.

Man Utd: Barthez, Phil Neville (Irwin 46), Silvestre, Gary Neville, Blanc, Beckham, Veron, Keane, Scholes, Solskjaer, van Nistelrooy (Giggs 85).
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Chadwick, Stewart.

Booked: Blanc.

Attendance: 31,858.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

BBC Sport's Ron Jones
"The defending champions are now in pole position"
Southampton boss Gordon Strachan
"I was very proud of the team"
Man Utd defender Gary Neville
"Southampton put a lot of pressure on us early on"
Links to more Eng Prem stories are at the foot of the page.


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