St. Mary’s, Southampton
Sunday, 15:00 BST
When Manchester United went into the final game of last season against West Bromwich Albion there was nothing to play for but there was an air of celebration all around the Hawthorns. The Red Devils had just won a record extending 20th top division English title and were bidding adieu to the manager who had made all this success possible – Sir Alex Ferguson. Fast forward 12 months and the final game of this season too will see a few legends bow out but while there can be no disputing their records for United there will be considerably less celebration. The reasons for this sombre mood are aplenty but the one that will be hurting the most to the United faithful is that their side are in 7th position and will only qualify for the Europa League if Tottenham Hotspur lose to Aston Villa at home and United themselves win.
In stark contrast to United’s fortune Southampton have enjoyed a stellar season under manager Mauricio Pochettino and have already accrued their highest number of points in a Premier League season. The football philosophy of Pochettino has also been one which has left the Saints faithful purring in delight. However, all this punching above their weight has led to a situation where all of their prized assets have been linked with summer moves elsewhere. Adam Lallana, the fleet footed attacking midfielder cum left winger has reportedly been the subject of a 20 million pound bid from Liverpool. Luke Shaw, the young left back, who has been under United’s radar would be flying to Manchester after this weekend’s game if the Red Devils had their way. Pochettino too has not confirmed where his future lies after admitting over the last week that he might leave for a different challenge next season. But despite the impending departure of many of their stars the mood inside St. Mary’s come Sunday will be one of festivity and tribute.
Team news and tactics
Some of Southampton’s most famous moments have come against Manchester United. The FA Cup Final win in 1976 & the 6-3 annihilation of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in 1996-97 are the ones which quickly come to mind. However, this match does not hold any significance for this club from the south coast which could lead to a reduction in intensity from many of their stars. This is even more pertinent considering that a few of Southampton’s players could be realistically hopeful of finding a place in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad for this summer’s showpiece event and hence would not want to over exert themselves.
Pochettino should start with the same team that got a last minute winner against Swansea City this past weekend with the only change being Rickie Lambert coming in place of Sam Gallagher. Gaston Ramirez could start on the bench for this game if Pochettino believes the Uruguayan has recovered sufficiently from his ankle injury. Meanwhile, Maya Yoshida, Jay Rodriguez & Kelvin Davies will definitely sit out this one.
Expected Starting Xl (4-4-1-1): Boruc (GK); Shaw, Fonte, Lovren, Clyne; Schneiderlin, Davis, Wanyama, Cork; Lallana; Lambert
This match could mark the last time that Ryan Giggs is seen in the Manchester United dug out and it will be interesting to see whether he makes another appearance from the bench like he did against Hull City in mid week. What is definitely certain is that Nemanja Vidic will call an end to his Manchester United career ahead of his summer move to Italy and Internazionale. The future’s of Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are still shrouded in mystery and it will be interesting to see whether Giggs hands these two veterans a start in this game.
While the injury to Phil Jones is not as bad as initially feared he is a definite non-starter and will be joined on the sidelines by Wayne Rooney, who has still not recovered sufficiently from his groin injury. Full back Rafael continues to be a doubt and Antonio Valencia could again deputise for the Brazilian in the right side of defence.
Despite freezing senior stars against Hull City in favour of Tom Lawrence and James Wilson, Giggs should restore them to the starting line up at St. Mary’s. It would also be a surprise if Maroune Fellaini starts this one given his poor showing against the Tigers.
Expected Starting Xl (4-2-3-1): De Gea (GK); Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Valencia; Carrick, Cleverley; Young, Mata, Nani; Van Persie
- Only West Bromwich Albion (15) and Stoke City (11) have drawn more matches than Southampton (10) this season
- The Saints have collected their highest number of points (55) in a Premier League season beating the 52 points that they managed in 2002-03
- This season will mark the first time that Manchester United will finish lower than third in the Premier League era
Player to Watch
Adam Lallana (Southampton)
The Southampton starlet who has been with the Saints since the age of 12 has really shone this season. It would be a major surprise if he did not play in the World Cup this summer and he would want to cement his spot for The Three Lions with an impressive showing against Manchester United.
Southampton 2-2 Manchester United
This should be an entertaining game with both the managers proponents of fast and flowing football.