SIR Alex Ferguson praised Saints for producing the best away display he had seen at Old Trafford this season.

Ferguson, pictured below, cited a chronic playing surface for his side’s dismal second-half performance, although he insisted it should not be used as an excuse.

He said: “In the second half Southampton produced the best performance anyone has done here this season.

“They pushed right on top of us and didn’t give us time to settle.

“But my experience of this club, when you are going for championships, is that there are always games where you can say we were a bit lucky.

“This was one of those nights.”

United midfielder Michael Carrick accepted the blame for Jay Rodriguez’s goal, Ferguson revealed.

Carrick’s weak back-pass was compounded by David de Gea’s failure to block, allowing Rodriguez to give the Saints a second-minute lead.

It didn’t prove too costly as Wayne Rooney’s double put United ahead before the break.

“Michael’s pass-back was a bit soft and Michael held his hand up – it’s great to see that, honest players like Michael saying ‘Sorry boss, sorry lads’. It’s great,” said Ferguson.

The mess-up was part of another jittery display from De Gea, who spilled one Rickie Lambert free-kick before denying the Saints skipper late on.

It raises more question marks over the Spain star’s long-term future, although new Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino had some sympathy for De Gea.

“It is clear to me that any free-kick near to the box, or a corner, presents a goalscoring opportunity,” he said.

“That doesn’t happen as much in the Spanish league.

“Also, the goalkeeper in Spain is a bit more protected than here. That makes their job here a lot harder.”