There have been some famous Southampton victories over Manchester United over the years. Does your favourite make our top five? We’ve picked one from five different decades…
After a goalless draw at Old Trafford, Saints were confident of ousting United from the 1986/87 League Cup in a replay at The Dell. The match is famous for two reasons: Matt Le Tissier scoring his first Saints goals and the ensuing departure of United boss Ron Atkinson, paving the way for Sir Alex Ferguson to succeed him in the hot seat. George Lawrence fired Saints into a half-time lead with a low 20-yard drive shortly before the interval, while Rod Wallace doubled the lead in the second half. Substitute Le Tissier added two more – a deft left-footed lob and a powerful header from a corner – meaning the end of Atkinson’s reign, in spite of Peter Davenport’s late consolation to deny the rampant hosts a clean sheet.
Saints had waited 27 years for a league win at Old Trafford, before two came along in the space of 12 months. The first is the one that makes our top five, as Ronald Koeman’s Saints underlined their European ambitions by ending the club’s long wait for three points at the Theatre of Dreams. Dušan Tadić struck a famous winner in the 69th minute, threading the ball through a sea of red shirts to find the net after Graziano Pellè’s low shot bounced back off the post. A year later, Charlie Austin was celebrating a memorable debut after making an instant impact off the bench, but it was Tadić’s strike that convinced Koeman’s men they had nothing to fear.
In the late 1960s, Saints’ forward line was blessed with perhaps the most feared number nine in the country: Ron Davies. The Welsh international was a formidable presence, particularly in the air, and top-scored in the top flight for two seasons running in 1966/67 and 1967/68 – latterly tied with George Best. It was no surprise, then, that Davies was the chief threat when Saints headed to Old Trafford early in the 1969/70 campaign. Indeed “headed” was the operative word, as Davies’s first three goals were all far-post headers from John Sydenham’s left-wing crosses. Having trailed 1-0, Saints led 3-1 before Davies added the icing on the cake with a cool right-footed finish. His performance led Sir Matt Busby to declare him “the finest centre-forward in Europe”.
If Busby’s United were one of the teams of the ‘60s, Sir Alex Ferguson’s vintage were unquestionably
team of the ‘90s. Only six months after opting to change kit at half time en route to defeat at The Dell, United were back and hunting revenge. Instead it got even worse for Cantona, Giggs and co, as Saints hit six in a remarkable display to thrill the home crowd once again. Eyal Berkovic rattled in an early opener before Roy Keane was dismissed for a second bookable offence. Matt Le Tissier scored the goal of the game with a sumptuous chip over Peter Schmeichel, Berkovic struck again with a spectacular late volley and Egil Østenstad helped himself to a hat-trick – or was it an own goal by Phil Neville? David Beckham, David May and Paul Scholes were on target for United, who were always chasing.
What else could it possibly be? It was against much-fancied United that Bobby Stokes scored the most iconic goal in Southampton history, as Lawrie McMenemy’s Saints lifted the 1976 FA Cup. United had finished third in the top flight while Saints were still a Second Division side at the time, but Ian Turner kept the favourites at bay, before Stokes raced on to a perfect pass over the top from Jim McCalliog – signed from Old Trafford – to score with a low shot across Alex Stepney that crept just inside the goalkeeper’s left-hand post. With only seven minutes left to save themselves, United were unable to respond and Saints held on to lift the trophy, as McMenemy’s men wrote their names into the history books.