Manchester United will be hoping to continue their unbeaten league run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when they host Southampton to Old Trafford.
Premier League football will continue this weekend with Gameweek 29 of the 2018-19 season. While much of the focus will be on the North London Derby, some other games will have big stakes riding on them. One such match will pit Manchester United against Southampton at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils have been on a resurgent run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has overseen 11 league games since being appointed as the interim manager in December. In those 11 games, Manchester United have dropped points just twice, and are yet to lose a game in domestic football – the only defeat they have suffered came against PSG in the UEFA Champions League.
Southampton, on the other hand, have found a stable footing since Ralph Hasenhuttl took over the reigns of the club in early December. The Saints have won, drawn and lost five games each over the last three months, but still remain perilously close to the drop zone – 18th placed Cardiff City are just two points behind them.
The reverse fixture, which was Mark Hughes’ last game in-charge of Southampton, saw Manchester United come from two goals down to hold the Saints to a 2-2 draw. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not have any fresh injury concerns hampering his preparations for the visit of Southampton. On Saturday, the Manchester United caretaker boss will have just seven first-team players unavailable due to their respective injury problems.
Those who are certainly missing out on Saturday are Antonio Valencia (calf), Matteo Darmian (knock), Nemanja Matic (muscle injury), Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard (all hamstring). Phil Jones is also likely to be unavailable due to his ongoing recovery from illness.
Anthony Martial is the final player whose availability is under question. Judging by Solskjaer’s quotes during his pre-match press conference, the Frenchman could feature, although he is unlikely to start against Southampton. But, the good news is that Marcus Rashford is now fully fit, and should return to the starting lineup.
The attacking unit thus, picks itself, with Rashford having Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez as his partners in the final third. Lukaku, who was the double-goal hero against Crystal Palace should move to the right side of the Manchester United attack, with Rashford leading the line.
In midfield, Paul Pogba will definitely start, considering he will miss United’s Round of 16 return leg in the UEFA Champions League against PSG next week. Scott McTominay, who has filled the void of Matic incredibly well, should continue in the holding midfield role, with Andreas Pereira returning to the side.
At the back, Solskjaer could look at resting a player or two. Just as he had done in the game against Fulham, Victor Lindelof might be afforded a rest, with Eric Bailly filling in for him at the heart of the Manchester United defence. Diogo Dalot is likely to start as the right-back against Southampton after playing in an advanced role in the midweek tie.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): de Gea; Dalot, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw; Pogba, McTominay, Pereira; Lukaku, Rashford, Sanchez
Ralph Hasenhuttl does not have many fitness issues hampering his preparations for the trip to face Manchester United. On Saturday, the Southampton boss will continue to remain without three first-team players.
The major absentee is Danny Ings, who is still believed to be a week away from returning from a thigh injury. In his absence, Charlie Austin and Shane Long have filled in as one of the two strikers, with Nathan Redmond being a certain starter in the Southampton attack. On Saturday, Long should partner Redmond.
The other two absentees are Michael Obafemi (hamstring), who has seen his season end prematurely, and Mario Lemina (stomach). In Lemina’s absence, the midfield unit picks itself, with James Ward-Prowse being the architect of Southampton’s recent positive results.
Oriol Romeu will be in-charge of stifling the Manchester United attack, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will the workhorse in the middle of the park. Ryan Bertrand, the Southampton captain, will be the supplying line for his side with his dangerous deliveries from the left flank. Yan Valery will also pose a threat from the right wing-back slot.
At the back, Jan Bednarek, Maya Yoshida and Jannik Vestergaard are certain starters, with Angus Gunn, who should be a busy man on Saturday, being deployed between the sticks.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Gunn; Bednarek, Yoshida, Vestergaard; Valery, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Bertrand; Long, Redmond
1. Manchester United Asian Handicap – 1.0 @ 1.7000
2. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.66
1. Shane Long to score anytime @ 4.75
- Manchester United have come from behind to win eight Premier League matches against Southampton, a joint-high in the competition.
- Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge, Manchester United have won 29 points, at least five more than any other top-flight side.
- Southampton have lost just one of their last five away games in the Premier League (W2 D2).
- Manchester United have kept just two clean sheets at Old Trafford in the Premier League this season – only Fulham have a worse home record.
- Manchester United have not won any of their last three home matches in all competitions (D2, L1). The Red Devils could fail to score in three consecutive home games for the first time since October 1989.
Player to Watch
2018-19 has largely been a season to forget for Romelu Lukaku. After failing to find any semblance of consistency before Jose Mourinho was given the marching orders, he ended up losing his spot as the first-choice striker to Marcus Rashford. But, injuries to Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata have given him a golden opportunity.
With Lingard and Mata still some way off returning, Lukaku can be handed a number of successive starts to stake claim for a regular role. The Belgian has now started each of the last three games that Manchester United have played, even scoring a match winning brace against Crystal Palace.
Now though, is the time to embark on a hot scoring streak, especially with a move to Juventus reportedly being mooted lately. Lukaku has scored seven goals in his last 10 Premier League appearances against Southampton, and chances are the motivated Belgian could add to that tally on Saturday.
Manchester United 3-0 Southampton
Southampton have become a resilient side under Ralph Hasenhuttl, but they still are lagging far behind to their levels under Ronald Koeman, when they had qualified to play European football. Manchester United, on the other hand, have become a consistent outfit under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with attack a strong point.
Southampton, meanwhile, are a side that struggle to consistently threaten in the final third against solid defensive units. All things considered, it looks like the visitors could be in for a long day’s work, with chances coming few and far between for them.
United though, might have a field day on Saturday, with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku warming up for the PSG tie quite well. The Hard Tackle predicts a straightforward 3-0 win for the hosts, which could possibly see them returning to the top four, depending on the result in the North London Derby.