Manchester United’s 3-2 victory over Southampton today was thrilling, but also troubling for United fans. New acquisition Robin van Persie showed his brilliance with a hat trick–including two goals in the last five minutes of the match–to give the Red Devils the three points. But on the whole United looked flat, creating few scoring chances and looking comical in the back at times. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have yet to find their rhythm together this season (a situation that was not helped by the switch of Anders Lindegaard for David De Gea in goal), and the midfield has been different each match of the young campaign. This is often a vexing problem for United: with so many quality players in the squad, it takes time for Sir Alex Ferguson to decide on a consistent first team.
It was clear today that United missed the injured Wayne Rooney. Not only did van Persie miss the penalty that Rooney normally would have taken (this is not to say that van Persie is an inexperienced penalty taker or that Rooney is flawless from the spot, as he has had some high-profile misses in recent seasons, but it was clear that van Persie was suffering from nerves at the prospect of taking his first United penalty in such a crucial spot), but the link between the midfield and the strikers was lacking, as both van Persie and Danny Welbeck prefer to be target men, whereas Rooney does a better job of performing a hybridized midfielder/striker role. Welbeck tried to do this in the first half, but one could tell that he was out of his comfort zone. Kudos to van Persie for rebounding from his penalty miss to lift the side to victory, but the team as a whole must get better, must get more consistent to have a chance at winning the league.