Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani were heavily involved as Man Utd fought back from a two-goal deficit to earn a dramatic 3-2 win over Southampton.
With Red Devils hitman Anthony Martial missing the match through illness, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to deploy a midfield diamond with Bruno Fernandes at the tip.
The formation change appeared to offer greater fluidity in attack in the early going.
Mason Greenwood latched onto an Alex Telles through ball after indecision in the Southampton defence. But after rounding the goalkeeper, his effort could only find the side netting.
A mazy run from Marcus Rashford then drew a clumsy attempted tackle from James Ward-Prowse inside the area. The contact on the strikers ankle was clear, but neither the referee nor VAR adjudged it sufficient to award a penalty.
The visitors were in the ascendancy, and Fernandes struck the post with a strike from range moments after receiving treatment for a hefty challenge by Oriol Romeu.
Their early pressure was all for naught, however, when a simple set piece crafted the game’s opener for Jan Bednarek.
Ward-Prowse’s whipped corner found the centre-half at the near post. His flicked header from close range left David De Gea with little else to do but pick the ball out of the net.
The lead could’ve been doubled soon after when Kyle Walker-Peters’ deflected drive grazed the outside of the post.
The chances continued to flow, but it was Alex McCarthy who unwittingly created the opportunity.
The goalkeeper’s errant clearance fell to Mason Greenwood, with the young forward’s run and shot forcing a parried stop. Fernandes reacted quickly to gather the rebound, but with the goal seemingly at his mercy, McCarthy produced an acrobatic stop to preserve the slender advantage.
That moment proved huge just after the half hour mark when a sublime Ward-Prowse free kick made it 2-0.
The set piece specialist placed his effort in the perfect spot, with De Gea unable to keep the ball out despite getting a hand to the ball.
⚽️ James Ward-Prowse has now scored 9 of his 26 PL goals from direct free-kicks
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) November 29, 2020
The Spanish stopper appeared to be struggling with a leg injury for the remainder of the half as the sides ultimately went into the break with Saints ahead 2-0.
Solskjaer made a double change to begin the second half. De Gea succumbed to his knock and was replaced by Dean Henderson, while Edinson Cavani came on for Greenwood.
The Uruguayan came close to reducing the arrears in the 55th minute, but his half-volley on the spin was deflected over the crossbar for a corner by a Southampton defender throwing his body in harm’s way.
He was heavily involved again moments later as Man Utd pulled one back.
His accurate cross found Fernandes unmarked in the box. This time his finish was assured as McCarthy was finally beaten to make it 2-1.
👹 Manchester United’s last 6⃣ Premier League goalscorers
Rashford (assisted by Fernandes)
Cavani (assisted by Fernandes)
The Portuguese star pulls one back for United at St. Mary’s pic.twitter.com/4PG4ya76H8
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) November 29, 2020
Provider almost then became scorer, but Cavani’s header from an Aaron Wan-Bissaka cross flew agonisingly wide of the post.
His persistence eventually paid off in the 74th minute as Man Utd’s pressure finally told.
The ball fell to Fernandes following the breakdown of a corner. The Portuguese playmaker rifled a shot goalbound, but Cavani – ever alert inside the area – nipped in to guide the shot inside the far post to make it 2-2.
Che Adams squirmed a low shot just wide, but it was Man Utd who appeared the likelier to snatch a winner in the game’s late stages.
That winner eventually came in injury time, when Cavani flicked a Rashford cross beyond McCarthy to ensure Man Utd completed a remarkable comeback to win 3-2.