Manchester United will be hoping to move on from their first defeat of the season when they take on Southampton at St. Mary’s on Saturday.
The first international break of the season is upon us and teams will be hoping to enter the two-week long period with momentum on their side. Two Premier League clubs that are desperately in need of a win, for reasons of their own, will meet on Saturday, when Southampton play hosts to Manchester United at St. Mary’s Stadium.
Southampton broke their duck for the season last weekend, when they grabbed a hard-fought 2-0 win over a ten-man Brighton & Hove Albion. The Saints then followed it up with success in the EFL Cup, narrowly beating Fulham courtesy a Michael Obafemi strike. Ralph Hasenhuttl will be hoping to end their winless run at home in the Premier League against Manchester United.
Speaking of Manchester United, a forgettable six-day period last week ended with a shock 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace at home, their first-ever defeat to the Eagles in the Premier League. Before that disappointing result, the Red Devils were held to a 1-1 draw by Wolves, meaning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co. have won just three of their last 12 Premier League matches.
The corresponding fixture last season was a pulsating affair that ended in a 2-2 draw, with all the goals coming in a frantic first half. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
While Ralph Hasenhuttl will be buoyed by the promise of a turnaround in form with back-to-back wins, he has also greeted some bad news this week. The Southampton boss could be without as many as three first-team players when Manchester United pay his side a visit on Saturday.
What is particularly eye-catching about the injured trio is that these are all the goalscorers during this mini run. Moussa Djenepo (muscular injury) and Nathan Redmond (ankle), who netted in the win over Brighton last weekend are out for up to three weeks, while Michael Obafemi is a major doubt after struggling with cramps in the cup tie against Fulham this week.
There is some piece of good news, however, with Ryan Bertrand returning to training this week. The Englishman is thus, in contention to feature against Manchester United and should slot in as the left-back for Southampton. On the opposite flank, Yan Valery is a certain starter.
The two full-backs will flank a two-man central defensive partnership, with Hasenhuttl reverting to his favoured 4-2-2-2 formation by putting an end to the 3-4-3 experiment. At the heart of the Southampton defence, Jannik Vestergaard will have Jan Bednarek as his partner.
Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will hold the fort for the hosts in the middle of the park, hoping to stifle the Manchester United attack in their build-up. The creative process for Southampton will flow through the attacking midfield duo of James Ward-Prowse and Sofiane Boufal, with the latter replacing Redmond.
The Saints’ strike partnership will be formed by Danny Ings and Che Adams, two players who need to add a semblance of consistency to their game to aid their team’s cause. And, with Manchester United still showing some vulnerabilities at the back, the duo will hope to exploit the weaknesses, particularly by testing David de Gea.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Gunn; Valery, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand; Romeu, Hojberg; Ward-Prowse, Boufal; Adams, Ings
Like Ralph Hasenhuttl, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer too has been rocked by a few fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to Southampton. On Saturday, the Manchester United boss is set to be without as many as five first-team players, with attacking unit, in particular, looking down to its bare bones.
In a week that has seen Alexis Sanchez join Inter Milan on loan for the remainder of the season, Manchester United have also lost the services of Anthony Martial for the next couple of weeks. The Frenchman picked up a thigh injury against Crystal Palace and will only return to the fold after the international break.
Apart from attack, defence too is posing a weary look after constantly being plagued by injuries. The latest player to be sidelined is Luke Shaw, who also sustained a thigh injury last week. The full-back is only expected to be back in contention towards the end of September, with Diogo Dalot another defender who will return to action next month.
Eric Bailly and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are the final two players on the treatment table, with the duo being long-term absentees due to their respective knee injuries. The major cause for concern is posed by the absence of Shaw and Martial. Shaw’s place should be taken up by Ashley Young, and the veteran Englishman could be the weak link that Southampton might hope to exploit.
Young though, will hope to provide top quality service going forward, allowing Daniel James to cut in and add to the numbers in the central areas. The rest of the defensive unit picks itself, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka lining up as the right-back, while Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof will man the heart of the Manchester United defence.
David de Gea will take his place in goal for the visitors and will hope to prove that last week’s error was only a rare mistake and not a pattern. Up ahead in midfield, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba ought to continue in the double pivot. But, McTominay, who has been the most consistent performer for United so far, needs to improve his positional awareness defensively.
Martial’s injury means Marcus Rashford will lead the line for the Red Devils. As for the forward’s replacement, Andreas Pereira is likely to come into the side instead of Mason Greenwood, with Manchester United desperately in need of a reliable set-piece specialist. While Pereira could start in the no. 10 role, Jesse Lingard might get one last chance to prove himself.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Young; McTominay, Pogba; Pereira, Lingard, James; Rashford
1. Manchester United to win @ 2.05
2. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.90
1. Manchester United to win to NIL @ 3.60
- Southampton are winless in their last eight home league games against Manchester United (D3 L5).
- The side playing at home in this fixture has managed to win just three of the last 15 Premier League encounters (D5 L7).
- Manchester United are without a victory in five Premier League fixtures on the road and have lost three of those matches.
- Southampton have scored in their last 15 home league matches; their opponents have found the back of the net in 14 of those encounters.
- There have been seven goals from direct free-kicks in Premier League fixtures between Southampton and Manchester United, including two by the Saints last season. There have only been more in total in matches between Liverpool and Man United, with eight.
Player to Watch
Anthony Martial may only be out for a couple of weeks, but with very little in way of backups, the Frenchman’s absence poses a major cause for concern. With Martial unavailable against Southampton, a lot of the responsibility in the final third will rest on the shoulders of Marcus Rashford.
The game against Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men could be just the occasion Rashford needs, seeing as he will return to his preferred role as the central striker. The Englishman needs to move on from last weekend’s setback, wherein his penalty miss was a contributing factor to the shock defeat to Crystal Palace, if only a minor one.
The needless attention to penalty taker issue also needs to go away, and a game-changing performance will help Rashford get the spotlight on him for all the right reasons. The time is now for Rashford to start embracing the tag of being the team’s talisman and a shaky Southampton defence should give him enough chances to get back to doing what he does best.
Southampton 1-2 Manchester United
After what looked like a promising start to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first full season, there are brewing concerns as to whether Manchester United are actually taking steps in the right direction. But, their failure against Crystal Palace is only likely to be flash in the pan and the Red Devils should bounce back at Southampton.
The hosts are expected to take the game to Manchester United, staying true to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s style of play. But, this system will also expose them to United’s counterattacking approach, which was stifled by Crystal Palace’s defensive outlook. One can also expect Victor Lindelof and David de Gea to make amends after last weekend.
But, Southampton can be expected to catch their visitors out and find the back of the net at least once. In the end, however, Manchester United should have enough firepower to get over the line, if only just. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co.