Manchester United will travel to St. Mary’s stadium to battle it out against Southampton on Wednesday night.
Manchester United will enter the game after back-to-back defeats against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. The Red Devils will hope to convert this result into a positive one considering it will be their last away game of a rather forgettable league campaign.
Their recent loss against Tottenham will mean that a top-four finish is literally out of the cards, since even a miracle cannot help them now. Now, their hopes can rest only on next week’s Europa League final as far as Champions League qualification is concerned.
Southampton, on the other hand, enjoyed a victory at Middlesbrough on Saturday, bringing an end to their dry spell of being without a victory in their last five games. The Saints are currently sandwiched between West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth at 9th in the Premier League table.
Team News and Tactics
The only positive from United’s defeat at White Hart Lane is that nobody sustained further injuries. They will still have to play without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo (both knee), Luke Shaw (foot), Tim Fosu-Mensah (shoulder) and Ashley Young (hamstring), all of whom have been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Mourinho might consider giving more chances to Chris Smalling and Phil Jones at centre-back, as Daley Blind is likely to be rested for this match.
Skipper Wayne Rooney played fairly well against Spurs, scoring his third goal in five appearances, and he is likely to feature against Southampton as Paul Pogba has been reportedly given an undefined leave after the demise of his father.
As far as tactics go, United will have to try and salvage victories out of their last two games. Against Southampton specifically, Mourinho will know that this could potentially be a big win for Puel, and that he is likely to try and sharpen his attack force just to catch United by surprise and capitalize on the same.
However, the Red Devils have been strong defensively throughout the season, and can do the same in this match by restricting the Saints as much as possible to avoid another loss at all costs since United have won only once in their last six games.
Also, tonight’s game can act as a way for him to chalk out selections and tactics ahead of the Europa League final since there will be no room for mistake in that one.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Darmian; Herrera, Fellaini, Lingard, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford
Southampton manager Claude Puel made seven changes to his squad during their last game, and is likely to do the same for this game as well.
Puel has had to deal with Charlie Austin’s injury for quite sometime now, and the player is likely to remain on the bench when they host Manchester United tonight. However, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond are expected to return.
Jeremy Pied and Martin Caceres might sit out as well since Puel would not want to risk injuring either of them. Matt Targett is also in contention to play after not featuring since October after sustaining a long-term injury.
Right now, the best that Southampton can hope for is to put up at least 51 points, which would be a decent return following a dismal performance for large parts of the season. The club’s owners will be judging Puel on that basis, and a win against United is needed for that.
Another reason why Puel will push for a victory is because a win over Manchester United would mean winning against a side who have lost only five games in the league this season.
Possible Starting lineup (4-3-3): Forster; Soares, Yoshida, Stephens, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Davis; Boufal, Gabbiadini, Redmond
- Southampton are winless in their last five home Premier League games against the Red Devils since Manchester United have not lost to Saints away since August 2003.
- United have also come from behind to beat Southampton on eight occasions in the Premier League, making it one of their best records.
- Southampton have failed to score in their last three home league games, but they’ve never gone four top-flight home games without a goal so far.
- Manchester United haven’t lost three successive Premier League games in a row since December 2015 under Louis Van Gaal.
- If United do not win their last two games, they will end up with their lowest win tally in a Premier League season (17).
Player to watch
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s long-term absence has been a massive blow to United, but the 19-year-old Marcus Rashford has done his best to fill the void left behind by the 35-year-old.
Five league goals and one assist in 1682 minutes may not sound like a major accomplishment, but given the situation and his age, it is a promising contribution in an otherwise struggling side.
Rashford is capable of tearing even the strongest of defences apart. However, Mourinho might limit Rashford’s playing time against Southampton to keep him fresh and fit ahead of the crucial Europa League final against Ajax next week.
Southampton 1 – 1 Manchester United
When you have one team prioritizing the Europa League and the other team having one of the bluntest attacks in the entire Premier League, the match is going to be a dull one and end in a stalemate, unlike their previous encounter in the League Cup final.
The only way there can be some sort of fireworks is if Southampton manage to bring a better attacking force into the game. The result of the match can directly affect them since they are at risk of finishing at one of their lowest points ever. As far as United are concerned, they might try to push for a draw since they cannot afford to lose again.