Date: 5th January 2009 at 11:37am
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Southampton boss Jan Poortvliet, along with the media, does his best to convince everyone that his side was undone by Mike Riley who favoured United all afternoon as the sides clashed in the FA Cup.

It is, once again, absolute nonsense but nothing more than what we could expect. Firstly, Danny Welbeck’s goal: yes, it was marginally offside. But it was by the finest of margins, real hard to spot and he gained no advantage by being a few inches ahead of the last defenders who were back in front of him when O’Shea’s header struck the keeper.

Second, the red card. I can’t see how can anyone debate that: it was a nasty lunge, aimed straight at Vidic’s leg, feet off the ground, hitting the Serbian under the knee. A straight red if I ever saw one.

Third, the penalty. Well, many say the ball hit the back of the defender’s head – for me, after the 463th replay it still seems that it was his arm which, for some inexplicable reason, was in the air. It might be that it hit the back of his head but when even television replays cannot provide conclusive evidence I cannot see how the referee can be blamed…

And there is the most important reason as well: even if all their complaints would be legitimate, they still could not argue that the Saints deserved anything out of this game. United, for the first time in weeks, showed their class, and we’ve outclassed the hosts after a scrappy opening 15 minutes.

Southampton’s performance more than justified their league position: they were vulnerable at the back, disjointed in midfield and had no cutting edge up front. So I’m not getting carried away and say that the Manchester United of 2007/08 is finally back. But it was refreshing to see our players play with confidence, verve and conviction…

Though there were many fine performers (Nani dribbled the right-back into submission, Carrick was as impressive as ever, and Anderson was very energetic while young Danny Welbeck scored the opener and was a real handful all afternoon, Darron Gibson scored the game’s easily finest goal after great work from Rooney) but one man stood out and he was the majestic Dimitar Berbatov.

I know he rarely reaches these heights in the Premier League but his football is becoming more consistent as he gets used to his teammates and to the fact that teams set up their tactics differently against Spurs than against Manchester United. I daresay he’ll be invaluable for us during the second half of the season.

Yesterday, he was at the centre of everything: his nonchalant flick-ons always seemed to find their targets, his beautiful threaded passes created danger and his dribbling bamboozled and confused defenders. They just could not get anywhere near him. It was a fantastic performance, and hopefully a sign of things to come.