Manchester United were lucky to come away from Southampton with all three Premier League points, according to Louis van Gaal.
Robin van Persie’s double secured a 2-1 victory for United – their fifth on the bounce – on Monday evening, though they only managed three shots on goal, their lowest tally in a game since 2003.
And Van Gaal was unimpressed with his side’s lacklustre performance, conceding that Ronald Koeman’s hosts were unfortunate not to take the spoils at St Mary’s.
“When you are the better team then of course you deserve more,” Van Gaal told BBC Sport.
“The performance was not good enough – we were the lucky team.
“It is fantastic to be third in the table but I had hoped to do it with a better performance.”
Despite Southampton controlling proceedings on the south coast, it was the visitors who took the lead when Van Persie latched onto Jose Fonte’s sloppy back-pass before slotting coolly through the legs of Fraser Forster.
Graziano Pelle powered in his tenth goal of the season to restore parity just after the half-hour mark, and Shane Long should have put the Saints ahead when he was played in by Dusan Tadic, but the Irishman’s tame header was collected easily by David De Gea.
However, they were made to pay for their poor chance conversion when Van Persie notched his second with just under 20 minutes remaining, tapping in at the back post from Wayne Rooney’s floated free-kick.
The triumph lifts United into the Premier League’s top three for the first time since August 2013, and Van Gaal praised Van Persie’s killer instinct in front of goal.
“I think not only the goals are telling something about Van Persie, I think also his performance,” he said.
“He was one of three players on the pitch for Manchester United who were good or maybe very good. He had a great influence on the result and until now it is his best performance.”
Next up for the Reds is the visit of arch-rivals Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, in a clash that former United stalwart Gary Neville claimed will be akin to a pub match between “the Dog and Duck against the Red Lion.”
But a prickly Van Gaal took exception to the pundit’s comments, with the Dutchman stating that Neville needs to have more respect for his former club.
“He can say everything because he’s an ex-legend. But as an ex-legend, you have to know what you’re saying.
“You can interpret that (as you like). It’s not difficult when I say he has to pay attention to his words.”
Main image courtesy of Sky Sports via YouTube, with thanks.