Last updated : 06 December 2004 By editor

'Manchester United's first 3pm Saturday kick-off of the season prove to have coincided with Steve Wigley's final game in charge of Southampton? While Sir Alex Ferguson's resurgent side celebrated their fourth successive Premiership victory, Saints have now won only once in 14 games and the odds of Glenn Hoddle returning must be shortening by the hour.

The traditional start time had Ferguson waxing lyrical about it "being just like old times", and the impressive Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, scorer of United's opener, responded by apparently turning back time and reminding everyone of the days when absolutely no one questioned their automatic places.

There was a time when Ferguson seemed almost as tightly wedded to 4-4-2 as Sven-Goran Eriksson but time can mellow the most dogmatic of managers and both have indulged in tactical fluidity of late.

Ferguson has proved the more avant garde and yesterday's apparent idiosyncrasies included using Wayne Rooney at left wing as the launch-pad for raids from deep. He was part of a midfield quintet behind Alan Smith - Ruud van Nistelrooy was absent with a slight injury - in which he, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo were all offered attacking scope. Indeed Roy Keane looked the only tackler on view.

Liberated from the anticipated constraints of marking Beattie, Ferdinand was free to advance and create United's 53rd-minute opener for Scholes, his hooked centre from the left being met instinctively by the midfielder who headed his fourth goal of the season from close range to further banish memories of his recent scoring drought. "I always knew Paul would find his touch again," said Ferguson. "You don't permanently lose great talent."

Not to be outdone, Rooney swiftly reminded everyone of his abilities by scoring United's second, a gorgeous chip over Keller which rose imperiously into the roof of the net after his connection with a measured pass from Gigg. The manner in which Rooney exploded into life, displaying an extraordinary change of pace, to run into position to receive that ball emphasised just what Southampton were up against.

United duly missed further chances before Ronaldo, by now in command of his flank, hit a deserved third, volleying in Gary Neville's cutback.'