SOUTHAMPTON

V

MANCHESTER UNITED

St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton 

Sunday, September 2, 15:00 GMT

***

Manchester United travel to the south coast of England hoping to build on last weekend’s vital win against Fulham that kick started their league campaign after the calamitous outing at Merseyside. Nigel Adkins’ Saints, on the other hand, are yet to get going and consequently yet to register a point on the board. Defeats against Macnehster City after a heroic effort was followed by a rather ordinary display at home against the Latics. St. Mary’s Stadium would, nevertheless, be rocking for the visit of the Red Devils.

Over the years Ferguson’s United have enjoyed great success on their visits to Hampshire and the gulf between the quality of the two squads suggests that the trend could continue. However, Saints could draw inspiration from some famous wins against legendary United sides of yore, the 6-3 mauling of the Eric Cantona led side following a  3-1 humbling the previous season springs to mind. Both teams would be desperate for points going into the international break. Chelsea’s rapid start dictates United keep abreast with fellow title rivals, while a third defeat in a row for Adkin’s side could risk them looking precariously up at the rest of the teams in the race to avoid the drop.

Team News & Tactical Brief

Southampton

It’s been a busy last couple of days in the transfer window for the Saints and finally they have their man – Gaston Ramirez. It is believed the Uruguay international cost Southampton around £12 million. More good news comes in the form of another new signing, Japan defender Maya Yoshida from Dutch side VVV-Venlo. It will be interesting to see if the Southampton manager is able to line up his new signings against the Red Devils, although one suspects the game comes too early. Nonetheless, Emmanuel Mayuka, the new Zambian striker, stands by to make his debut at some point.

On the injury front Adkins has little to no concerns with a full squad to choose from other than former Chelsea trainee Jack Cork, who is out with a knee injury. It will be intriguing to see how the Saints line up but one imagines it will definitely be Ricky Lambert upfront partnered by Rodriguez. Midfield will be marshaled by captain Lallana and Davis with Schneiderlin adding extra protection in front of the back four looking to mark United’s most potent threat – Shinji Kagawa in that pocket of space between the midfield and defense.

Adkins would hope for a much improved showing after the debacle against Wigan as Southampton, especially in the second half, looked devoid of ideas and lost possession with alarming regularity However, Saints’ captain Lallana has been impressive in both the outings so far and looked a class apart and will invariably be the biggest thorn in the flesh for Fergie’s side. Ricky Lambert will be looked upon to lead the line and trouble United’s hitherto shaky rearguard.

Probable Starting Line up ( 4-1-2-1-2): K Davis; Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox; Schneiderlin, Lallana, S Davis; Guly; Lambert, Rodriguez

Manchester United

The defensive calamity facing Sir Alex’s side might ease a bit with the return of Jonny Evans but the manager would have ideally wanted to have eased him in. Nevertheless, the upcoming international break could provide some respite but till then the trio of Smalling, Ferdinand and Jones remain unavailable. The return of Evans must sound like music to ears for one Michael Carrick who would be delighted to move back to his preferred central midfield spot, where one suspects he will be partnered by Tom Cleverley who has been quietly impressive so far.

Ashley Young’s injury leaves the left wing berth open for one of Nani or Welbeck to take up and make their own, although the Portuguese winger should be the preferred option. Shinji Kagawa is a certain starter, operating in the hole behind the front man Robin Van Persie who will be leading the line. Wayne Rooney’s unfortunate injury has solved the selection dilemma for Ferguson, well for the time being at least. Partice Evra and Rafael Da Silva will take up their positions as first choice full backs and Antonio Valencia is sure to start on the right wing.

United’s new recruit Kagawa has called upon his new teammates to play the ball more centrally towards his feet, it will be a pleasant change if that intricate pass and movement is on display in the center of the park. Wing play will always be in the forefront of United’s philosophy but with the likes of RVP, Kagawa and Cleverley in the side, the Red Devils can hurt the opposition through the middle too. Mouth watering proposition for United fans all over the world.

Probable Starting Line up (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Cleverley; Valencia, Kagawa, Nani; Van Persie

Key facts:

  • Manchester United have won their last four visits in all competitions to St Mary’s.
  • Manchester United have only lost a higher proportion of games at Chelsea and Arsenal (40%) than they have at Southampton (38%) in the Premier League (min. 10 matches).
  • United have lost three of their last four Premier League away matches.
  • The last four Premier League away trips Manchester United have made have ended with a 1-0 scoreline (three defeats and one win).

Player To Watch Out For

Michael Carrick (Manchester United)

Can’t do without Carrick!

Carrick’s had a torrid time of it playing in defence but now with the return of Evans, the midfield maestro can finally return to his favoured position and provide cover to the backline. Defence has been a cause for concern for Ferguson but with Carrick shielding the back four, United could hope for calmness to return to proceedings. His incisive passes from the deep midfield position will also be crucial for the team and his combination with Kagawa does offer a mouth-watering prospect.

Prediction

Southampton 0-2 Manchester United

Southampton didn’t inspire much confidence in their last outing at St Mary’s while United looked to be kicking into gear against the Cottagers. With the defence finally looking sorted and the new signings gelling in, United would be confident of getting all three points.

Blast From The Past