Southampton's Irish-born striker Michael Obafemi (C) celebrates after scoring their late second goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Southampton at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England, on July 13,
And they were rewarded for their efforts when Danny Ings dispossessed Paul Pogba and found Nathan Redmond, whose cross in turn found Stuart Armstrong six yards out ready to lash home on the half volley.
But five minutes later United kicked into gear, Pogba redeeming himself by picking out Anthony Martial in the box, the Frenchman holding off two defenders before squeezing the ball through for Marcus Rashford to rifle home.
Two minutes later and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men had turned it around, with creator-in-chief Bruno Fernandes playing in Martial down the left, who cut inside a helpless Kyle Walker-Peters before rifling past Alex McCarthy.
Anthony Martial of Manchester United celebrates with teammates Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford of Manchester United after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton FC at Old Trafford
Image credit: Getty Images
Saints steadied the ship in the second half and kept themselves in the contest, limiting United to long-distance efforts with Fernandes unable to unlock a disciplined defence.
Rashford should have put the game to bed after a fantastic one-two with Martial in the box but Ryan Bertrand stepped in with a brilliant block to prevent a certain goal. Martial went close himself after a brilliant run, but substitute Will Smallbone just about managed to block his goalbound effort.
But United couldn't quite see it over the line. With substitute Brandon Williams off the pitch injured, James Ward-Prowse whipped in a fantastic corner and Saints substitute Michael Obafemi grabbed the equaliser at the back post.
United stretch their unbeaten run to 18 games, but remain outside the Champions League spots behind Leicester on goal difference.
The race for top four is on. With Manchester City now guaranteed a place in next season's Champions League following their successful appeal against a ban, we have a good old-fashioned race for the top four on our hands. Leicester, Chelsea and United, are all separated by just one point. United missed the chance to go third tonight, and they'll be gutted, but they're still 18 matches unbeaten and they still have Leicester to play. It's in their hands, but it's very, very tight.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Anthony Martial (Manchester United): Deserved to be on the winning side. Martial almost single-handedly turned things around after a rotten start by Manchester United. His assist for Rashford was brilliant, as was his goal. A striker in the form of his life.
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United celebrates with teammate Anthony Martial of Manchester United after scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton FC at Old Trafford on July 13, 2020 in Manches
Image credit: Getty Images
Man Utd XI: De Gea 6, Wan-Bissaka 5, Shaw 5, Maguire 5, Lindelof 6, Matic 6, Pogba 5, Fernandes 6, Martial 8, Greenwood 5, Rashford 7. Subs. Fred 5, Williams 4, McTominay 4
11' - CHANCE! After all that, Saints almost gift United a goal. Ward-Prowse takes a heavy touch at the back and Martial steals in to go one on one with the 'keeper. Fortunately for Saints, McCarthy makes himself massive and gets a big left glove to Martial's shot. Should have scored it.
12 - GOAL! Manchester United 0-1 Southampton (Armstrong): Saints take the lead! Pogba this time gets punished after Ings nips it off him 25 yards from goal. The striker slips in Redmond who crosses for an unmarked Armstrong who blasts it into the net. Mistakes at both ends of the pitch but Saints make it count where Martial couldn't.
20 - GOAL! Manchester United 1-1 Southampton (Rashford): Perfect response! Pogba finds Martial in the box and the Frenchman does brillianbtly to hold it up before squeezing it into Rashford in space. The striker makes no mistake and rifles across McCarthy.
23 - GOAL! Manchester United 2-1 Southampton (Martial): They've turned it around in two minutes! Fernandes finds Martial on the left who just cuts in past Walker-Peters like he's not there. And United are suddenly ahead. What a game this is.
29 - CHANCE! Pogba finds some space (finally) and belts one at goal, forcing a good save from McCarthy,
69 - CHANCE! Should that be game over? Rashford produces some brilliant skill to start a move down the left, he plays a one-two with Martial inside the box but Bertrand gets between Rashford and an easy goal.
87' - CHANCE! De Gea may have saved United on his 400th appearance! Redmond runs at Matic, shifts inside and bends one at goal, but De Gea gets a good diving hand to it. Great save from a 'keeper under pressure of late.
90+6' - GOAL! Manchester United 2-2 Southampton (Obafemi): Unbelievable! The substitute has got the goal. Ward-Prowse whips in a deadly cross and Obafemi is their at the back post to tap it in. United man Williams was off the pitch injured and Saints have capitalised.
Michael Obafemi’s equaliser for Southampton was the latest Premier League goal Manchester United have conceded since we have exact goal times available (2006-07).
Manchester United have lost and drawn a Premier League game at Old Trafford thanks to a goal scored in the 90th minute this season – in their 519 home games in the competition before this season, they’d only drawn one game thanks to a 90th minute strike from the opposition L0).
Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 18 games in all competitions (W13 D5), last having a longer run between April-November 2010 (29 games).
Manchester United named the same starting XI for the fifth consecutive Premier League game, the first time they’ve done so in as many since a run of six in January/February 1993.
Anthony Martial became the 10th player to score 50 Premier League goals for Manchester United – no team has had more different players reach the milestone in the competition (Liverpool also 10).
Anthony Martial (2 assists) and Marcus Rashford (4) have combined for six Premier League goals this season – no Manchester United duo have ever combined for more in a single campaign.
Since his Man Utd debut at the start of February, Bruno Fernandes has been involved in 14 Premier League goals (7 goals, 7 assists), more than any other player in the competition. The Portuguese has had a hand in eight of Man Utd’ last 12 league goals.
Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong has been involved in five goals in his last six Premier League games (2 goals, 3 assists) – as many as he had been in his previous 40 in the comp