Substitute Edinson Cavani produced a second-half masterclass, scoring twice and creating another goal as Manchester United hit back from a two-goal deficit to beat Southampton 3-2 in a Premier League cracker on Sunday.
United were reeling at halftime and Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse was set to hog the headlines after setting up Jan Bednarek’s opener and then scoring another sublime free kick.
But Uruguayan Cavani showed why United signed him from Paris St Germain in October, coming on to replace Mason Greenwood for the second half to devastating effect.
He picked out Bruno Fernandes on the hour to get United back in the game, then headed his side level in the 74th minute, and finally stooped to nod the winner in in the 92nd minute, sealing an eighth successive league win for his side.
United became the first side in Premier League history to come from behind to win four successive away games and they had Cavani to thank for the dramatic turnaround on the south coast.
“Great impact of course,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of Cavani. “He is always on the move, he wants to get in front of you and I am very pleased with him.
“His hunger to get on the end of things is the key for a centre-forward. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn’t but to score you have to be in there.”
Solskjaer’s side had not played badly but were undone by two moments of quality from Ward-Prowse, one of the deadliest set-piece exponents in England.
Ward-Prowse whipped in a corner with pace and accuracy to allow Bednarek to glance a header past David de Gea in the 23rd minute. Then 10 minutes later he beat the Spanish keeper himself with a free-kick that crept inside the near post.
De Gea clattered into the post trying to keep that free-kick out and was unable to continue after halftime with Dean Henderson replacing him.
But it was Cavani’s introduction that proved the key moment.
Cavani was initially slow to even get on the pitch as he changed his footwear, but once he took to the field United looked dangerous every time they attacked.
His pass into Fernandes was sharp and accurate, and the Portuguese had time to take a touch before firing past Alex McCarthy, who had made a great double-save in the first half shortly after Southampton took the lead.
Cavani almost equalised when his header from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross drifted wide, but he was on hand 16 minutes from time to divert Fernandes’s deflected shot past McCarthy with a flick of his head.
Southampton were hanging on for a draw as United dominated, but Cavani was not finished and stooped down in stoppage time to head home Marcus Rashford’s low cross, before being buried under his celebrating teammates.
United moved into the top half of the table with the win, up to seventh on 16 points, one point behind Southampton, who saw their seven-match unbeaten league run brought to an end.