SOUTHAMPTON: Hat-trick hero Robin van Persie was quick to salute Paul Scholes after the duo inspired Manchester United to a dramatic 3-2 victory against Southampton.
Van Persie took his tally to four goals in two starts for United since his 24 million pound move from Arsenal, with his stoppage-time winner at St Mary's on Sunday taking the striker to 100 Premier League goals.
The Dutch forward's heroics proved United should be able to survive the four-week absence of the injured Wayne Rooney, even though he failed to convert a second half penalty.
But van Persie insisted the most significant contribution had come from veteran midfielder Scholes, who produced a typically influential display after coming on as a 61st minute substitute shortly after Morgan Schneiderlin had headed the home side into a 2-1 lead.
“I have to say a big thank-you to Paul Scholes, when he came on everything started ticking. Every single pass he hit was the right one. Everyone felt that, I certainly did,” van Persie said.
“He hit a couple of unbelievable passes over 30 metres. With him you are always on your toes because anything can happen with his qualities. For me, he is the man of the match.”
Ferguson, who was marking his 1,000th league match as United manager, echoed van Persie's praise for the 37-year-old midfielder.
“To be honest with you I thought when Paul Scholes came on the pitch it changed the game completely,” Ferguson said.
“After Southampton's second I thought we were well out of it until Scholes came on the park. His vision and consistency of passing gave us complete control again then.”
Van Persie admitted he feared his penalty blunder, which saw Kelvin Davis save his chipped effort with Saints leading 2-1, would come back to haunt him.
“The penalty was a big set-back,” he said. “I wanted to hit it hard in the corner with a good angle on it. Then in a split second I changed my mind and it went wrong. I am quite disappointed with that, it's just me to blame.
“I try to reach a certain standard and missing a penalty like that is not a part of it when you are 2-1 down. I have work on that. After that I was very relieved we had the three points.”
Ferguson is more than satisfied with van Persie's impact, but acknowledged that after conceding five goals in the opening three league games, there is room for improvement at the back.
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were reunited in central defence for the first time since December, but Ferguson said: “I've always said when you play two centre backs consistently, you get better results.
“That's always been the case with (Steve) Bruce and (Gary) Pallister, (Jaap) Stam and (Ronnie) Johnsen and last season our best performances came when (Jonny) Evans and Ferdinand played regularly. Our best results were then.
“This season we had four centre backs out in the first game of the season, Michael Carrick played there and Antonio Valencia was at right back. And with the best will in the world you know that's never going to be the perfect solution.
“Rio was back today and I thought he did better in the second half, it took time for him to get in the game in the first half, and he ended up playing very well for us.”
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins was pleased his side scored twice against United through Rickie Lambert and then Schneiderlin.
But having lost all three of their matches back in the top-flight after a seven-year absence, Adkins admitted his side must improve their levels of concentration.
“We've scored two good goals from open play against a Manchester United side packed with experience. But from a negative point of view we have let points slip,” he said.
“The main thing now is to improve the concentration level. It's a horrible feeling but we have to keep working hard.”