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Preview: Manchester United must take advantage to gain a favourable position in the Premier League this season

Southampton -v- Manchester United

Premier League

St Mary’s, Southampton

Saturday 1 December 2018; KO 17:30 GMT

Referee: Kevin Friend

Manchester United travel to St Mary’s to face Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday evening. It is an opportunity for Jose Mourinho’s side to build some confidence ahead of a busy December, which will see United face both Arsenal and Liverpool, by which time, this side will need to have players firing them to glory. United had been struggling to find goals since the international break, drawing 0-0 with Crystal Palace last weekend and only managing to score against Young Boys in added time.

Currently, United sit in seventh place in the Premier League but that could change with five matches kicking off before United’s with the Saints. On Sunday, teams above United go head-to-head with Tottenham Hotspur facing Arsenal and Liverpool facing Everton. At least two of these teams will drop points. Like last weekend with Spurs beating Chelsea, United had the opportunity to shorten the distance between them and Chelsea but failed.

If United beat Southampton, which they should be capable of doing, they would go two points clear of Everton, who play on Sunday. If Liverpool beat them, United could be inside the top six, which gets them heading in the right direction. Arsenal, currently in fifth place – six points clear of United, could lose to Spurs and if United beat the Saints, that gap could be down to just three points and with Arsenal next up for United, could see a good game in the offing. That could see United on the rise but it will not be easy.

Pre-Match Thoughts: Scoring goals seems to be a problem for Manchester United when in fact, they should be the easiest output for this squad!

United are a team with players capable of scoring goals. However, this season, that has been alien to this squad. In their last two matches, United have scored just once in 180 minutes of football. Granted, the teams have created a lot and individual players have had frustrating matches but it should be so much better for United. Without scoring goals, victories, which will be needed this season, will be much harder to grasp. It is time United stood up, held themselves accountable and got stuck in to scoring goals.

Romelu Lukaku has played a total of 949 minutes of football for United since his last goal. If the Belgian starts on Saturday, which with injuries will probably happen, he could find himself heading over the 1,000-minute mark, which would be a new low for the club, the manager and the player. United will need to find a way out of the rut they have got themselves in. It is not looking good for the manager right now, which means it will not look good for any of these players, especially if a new manager was forthcoming.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, United have now had three permanent managers in David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and now Mourinho. The fact that similar problems have encountered each manager would suggest that the main underlying problem is something that he outstayed the two former manager’s. Whether that be the players that have played under all the managers, the board, the executive vice-chairman of the club’s owners, that remains to be seen. It would be unfair to lump everything on the manager.

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Team News: Alexis Sanchez out for the foreseeable future; Diogo Dalot will make his Premier League debut this weekend

Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Diogo Dalot is now ready to make his Premier League debut after suffering injuries around the international breaks this season. The manager also confirmed that Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo will miss this match, alongside Victor Lindelof who had already been ruled out. Mourinho, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:

“Players must be ready and in this case, some are going away to the medical room and others are coming back. For example, this weekend will be the first call for Dalot. He’s ready now.

“He had an important injury and then surgery, and then a second injury with the national team [Portugal Under-21s] when he was already playing against Young Boys and Derby County. When he was almost there, he was injured for the national team but now he’s had two weeks of training and we think he’s ready now.”

The club confirmed on Thursday evening that Alexis Sanchez will be out of action for the month of December after injuring his hamstring in training on Thursday. The player had come back from international duty with a slight niggle, which was exacerbated against Palace last weekend, ending with the devastating injury in training which will end 2018 on a low for the Chilean. Mourinho, speaking during his press conference on Friday, confirmed the news on his forward, saying:

“The first thing I can say is that in every other club when a player is not playing it’s a simple manager’s decision. In our club, when a player doesn’t play, it’s always [reported that it’s] because the player isn’t behaving and has disciplinary issues. Of course that’s not the case again.

“He has an important injury. I don’t want to risk by saying for how long [he will be out] but from the top of my experience, I would say he’s not playing [again] this year.”

Predicted Starting XI: Injuries mounting up ahead of an important month but Manchester United need to overcome this and continue to play

Mourinho has confirmed that Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian, and Alexis Sanchez are all out of action going into this match against Southampton. This means that United will need to keep the rotation going in order to keep players fresh for the month, which will see United play eight matches in 30 days. It will be a tough month. Now that their UEFA Champions League round of 16 place has been confirmed, that will take the pressure off for one match, sandwiched between Fulham (H) and Liverpool (A).

Romelu Lukaku will probably be chosen to lead the line, although Anthony Martial playing there may be another option, however, his position on the left would need to be filled by another player. Having Martial on the left and Jesse Lingard on the right is probably the best match right now with Paul Pogba in a more advanced role, just behind Lukaku. The midfield could have both Andreas Pereira and Fred, which will give Nemanja Matic a break. The defence could be unchanged, apart from Diogo Dalot coming in.

Match Prediction: Manchester United need to get a result in this game, especially with top six teams facing each other this weekend

Jose Mourinho and his players will need to realise that winning this match is the only option. The players are not an untalented bunch and should not be playing like they are. If they are not performing for the manager, shame on them. That maybe the case, which will complicate matters even further. United are anything but United, if that is the case. In order to continue to run in the right direction, a win against Southampton is necessary. They are a team out of form and sitting in the bottom three.

United will need to take advantage. Mourinho will need to make the right decision on his starting XI and the players chosen will need to put in nothing less than 100% in order to get the desired result. Player power seems to be rife in this generation of modern football, which is wrong. There seems to be so many egos in the game, some of the players developing these egos do not deserve them as they (mostly) have achieved nothing in the game.

Southampton 0-2 Manchester United

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