LONDON (AFP) – Southampton climbed above Manchester United into third place in the Premier League with a shock 1-0 win at Old Trafford, while Alexis Sanchez took centre-stage as Arsenal crushed Stoke 3-0 on Sunday.
Ronald Koeman’s side stole the points in a dour encounter as Dusan Tadic’s 69th minute strike boosted Southampton’s bid to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.
It was the Saints’ first win over United since 2003 and their first at Old Trafford since 1988.
After a wobble in early December, Southampton are firmly back on track having beaten United and Arsenal, and drawn with Chelsea, in their last three league matches.
“If you play against a big side you need spirit and quality but you also need belief in yourself and your team-mates and we showed that today,” Koeman said.
“We have had good organisation all season and that is key to being successful.”
United, now two points behind Southampton, could have few complaints after a lacklustre performance which condemned them to their first home defeat since the opening weekend of the season against Swansea.
Louis van Gaal’s team are without a win in their last three league games and recent talk of a potential title challenge is likely to be silenced as they lie 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.
“We played a much better game than Southampton. They were lucky to score out of nothing. That is very disappointing,” van Gaal said.
“We have to improve. We have to make better choices with the ball.”
Koeman’s side took the lead in the 69th minute when Graziano Pelle’s shot hit a post and rebounded to Serbian midfielder Tadic, who swept his low shot past Tyler Blackett’s attempt to clear off the line.
Juan Mata missed United’s best chance, firing just wide, as the hosts pressed in vain for an equaliser.
At the Emirates Stadium, Sanchez delivered a majestic display as Arsenal kept up the pressure in the race for a top four finish with an emphatic win against Stoke.
Sanchez made Laurent Koscielny’s opener and then netted his 17th and 18th goals of the season either side of half-time to lift Arsenal above Tottenham into fifth spot.
The battle for Champions League qualification is hotting up, with Arsene Wenger’s side only one point behind fourth placed United.
“Collectively, you’re happy when you score a few goals. We had a strong start and we knew that was vital today,” Wenger said.
“Alexis Sanchez is one of the best players. He’s a fighter with a combination of talent and fighting spirit which is very difficult to find.
“He plays with passion and you want people to enjoy what they’re doing on the pitch and show it as well.”