Friday night football, Old Trafford, and Paul Pogba all return to our lives this Friday night! After an extremely promising opening game away at Bournemouth, top of the table United return home to Old Trafford where they come up against Southampton, who managed a draw under new boss Claude Puel. All eyes will be on Manchester United’s new number six as Paul Pogba will look to set the stage alight after his world record transfer from Juventus. This is something so many people are dying to see but I’m sure Ander Herrera isn’t one of those. After playing well against Leicester and Bournemouth he would have been hoping to nail down a starting spot as the box to box midfielder but with Pogba’s return, it’s likely Herrera will find his starting place on the bench. Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini or Morgan Schneiderlin will partner Pogba in the middle of the park. The question is, who?
Firstly to the man who causes more angry tweets when he is announced in the starting XI more than potentially anyone in the history of football, Marouane Fellaini. I’m not his biggest fan but he was immense against Bournemouth, dictated the defensive play with a passing accuracy of 99% from 76 passes and six important defensive contributions. His style is often sloppy and aggressive but anchored the midfield well when Ander Herrera had the license to bomb forward, which Pogba will have on Friday. Mourinho has shown faith in Fellaini thus far and might well do the same after his performance v Bournemouth.
Next in line is the veteran Michael Carrick. After signing a new contract in the off-season he is likely to take a more relaxed role this season assisting the squad and being a character in the dressing room. He didn’t feature in the weekend’s game at Bournemouth from the bench but had a wealth of experience behind him which could be useful alongside the returnee Pogba. His passing stats last season were good, averaging a passing accuracy of 86% and averaging three defensive actions per game. We’re not sure this will be enough to convince Mourinho to make him a starter against Southampton but his impact would be happily received by the United faithful.
Finally is Pogba’s French team-mate and genuine holding midfielder, Morgan Schneiderlin. His time under Louis van Gaal was extremely stop start and when he had a good run of games, the Dutch manager decided to drop him. Schneiderlin is someone who will hold a defensive midfielder role down to a tee, nothing exciting or with flair but who does a job and will provide a great deal of stability to this attack-minded United team. He only featured for nine minutes after coming on against Bournemouth but last season, he managed better stats than Michael Carrick, with a passing average of 89% and four defensive contributions per game in an unsteady season. If he gets the chance to perform at the top-level consistently then it’ll only help his game develop, especially being alongside an international team-mate.
Southampton could only manage a draw against Watford at the weekend, where a Nathan Redmond goal helped them achieve a 1-1 scoreline. Under new boss, Claude Puel Southampton lined up in 4-4-1-1 formation with new signing Redmond starting behind Shane Long. It is likely this will be the setup Puel goes for against United as the pace of both those strikers is something that’d threaten the United back four.
As you can see, Southampton dominated the game with all attacking areas including possession, shots, and corners. They won’t have the same luck against United, though, especially at Old Trafford but it will be interesting to see if they approach the game with the same attacking vigor. Redmond was wasteful in his chances but did get a goal eventually and maybe after a game to break his nerves, they’ll get a better performance out of him this week.
Luke Shaw v Dusan Tadic
These two going head to head is an exciting prospect. Tadic has had a great start to the season with Southampton and is a quick, strong and direct minded player, someone who will beat his man either side and can produce some wonderful crosses. Shaw will have his hands full for sure but he’s proven in the past that he is comfortable against pace as well as trickery. His fitness has been improving and looks stronger than ever, if he can manage to click with Martial on the left, they’ll cause havoc throughout the league.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Jose Fonte
Two experienced players head to head and this will prove a tough test for both men. Zlatan has the height advantage but I wouldn’t underestimate the power of Fonte, there is a reason United are looking at his as a potential purchase to assist Smalling and Bailly. IF Fonte, and it is a big if, can handle Zlatan tomorrow it’ll mean United will have a blunted attack, making it harder to score and show Jose Mourinho what he could have for a small fee.
Nathan Redmond v Eric Bailly
Eric Bailly has been the complete defender in his two full games at United picking up Man of the Match on both occasions, however now he’ll encounter pace of the highest degree in Nathan Redmond. The new boy from Norwich scored on his debut against Watford and will only settle into the role better. Bailly will need to keep tabs on him and not allow the runs in behind him and Smalling, otherwise, it’ll be a tough day for the United defence.