They may not be rivals in the traditional sense, but Manchester United and Southampton have crossed swords in some vitally important and utterly unforgettable matches.
So, ahead of this weekend’s EFL Cup Final, and following much debate at Ladbrokes News HQ, we’ve finally narrowed it down to our top five. And, fittingly, we’re kicking off with a cup final…
Manchester United 0-1 Southampton (FA Cup Final: May 1, 1976)
The Saints lifted their first and – so far – only major honour against the Red Devils in front of a crowd of over 99,000 at the old Wembley.
Top-tier United were hot favourites following a third-placed finish in the First Division, and then-boss Tommy Docherty rubbished his opponents’ chances by claiming that their Semi-Final tie with Derby County had been “the first time the FA Cup Final has been played at Hillsborough.”
But he was made to eat his words by a hardworking Saints side who also possessed the flair of Mick Channon and Peter Osgood, as well as the talented Bobby Stokes. And it was the latter who netted coolly past United stopper Alex Stepney with eight minutes remaining to secure glory for the underdogs.
Man United 2-1 Southampton (Premier League: February 19, 1993)
After 25 seasons without a league title to their name, many expected the Red Devils to crumble in the inaugural Premier League campaign, as they had the previous season.
And it looked like they were on the verge of capitulating again as, after wasting a string of chances, they went behind to a breakaway goal from Saints’ Nicky Banger, with just 13 minutes left on the clock.
Step forward young Ryan Giggs, who netted twice in under two minutes – first chipping the helpless Tim Flowers, before finishing off a terrific team move to calmly slot home a second and send Old Trafford into wild celebration. As for Giggs, that was his first of, oh, just the 13 league titles.
Southampton 6-3 Man United (PL: September 25, 1996)
Less than six months after their 3-1 defeat at the Dell and its grey kit debacle, Alex Ferguson (pre-knighthood) took his side back to the south coast looking to avenge that defeat. But they were hit for six by a sensational Saints performance.
The hosts raced into a lead thanks to a smart finish from Eyal Berkovic, before Matt Le Tissier’s inch-perfect lob left Peter Schmeichel red-faced and United 2-0 down.
From there, only one team were going to win this contest. Despite goals from David Beckham, David May and Paul Scholes, the visitors just continued to be outscored, with Egil Ostenstad netting two, Berkovic grabbing another, and Gary Neville capping things off by flicking one into his own net, to make it 6-3. Scenes.
Man United 3-3 Southampton (PL: September 24, 1999)
This was definitely one for the neutrals, with the balance of power shifting throughout this six-goal thriller, before the pair deservedly shared a point – following 90 minutes of superb skill and huge howlers.
Talented Latvian Marian Pahars braved the wrath of Dutch goliath Jaap Stam, nutmegging him en route to chalking up a virtuoso solo goal. But United responded in typical fashion with a pair of well-worked goals to turn the game on its head.
However, nobody counted on Massimo Taibi stealing the limelight – albeit in the worst way possible, as Matt Le Tissier’s long-range pea-roller slipped through the Italian’s hands to make it 2-2. Dwight Yorke and ‘Le Tiss’ went on to score in the final half-hour, but this game remains best remembered for Taibi’s horror show.
As for the United keeper, he scuttled back to Serie A after just four games in English football – never to return.
Southampton 2-3 Man United (PL: September 2, 2012)
After the heartbreak of losing the league crown to local rivals Manchester City in 2011-12, United fans enjoyed the joy of lifting the Premier League the following season – and this victory at St Mary’s was arguably the game that kick-started their title tilt.
Rickie Lambert opened the scoring for the hosts, before Robin Van Persie smashed home his first away-day goal for the club. But when Morgan Schneiderlin retook the lead for Saints and the Dutch hitman missed a penalty, it seemed he could be set for a frustrating afternoon, despite his first-half strike.
But the former Arsenal man pulled this one out of the bag in spectacular fashion, pouncing on a rebound to make it 2-2 in the dying moments, before flicking a 92nd-minute header home from Nani’s corner to send the travelling fans into raptures. Welcome to Manchester, indeed.
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