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Key Battles: Bailly, Pogba and Rashford key to beating Southampton

Manchester United face Southampton at St Mary’s in the Premier League on Wednesday, the penultimate league match of the season. United have been beaten in their last two Premier League matches, both in London; 2-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates and 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in the last ever match at White Hart Lane, as we know it. Jose Mourinho will be looking to return to winning ways in the league ahead of the UEFA Europa League final, which could give the team a negative mindset if they keep losing. Against Southampton, who could be playing for European football next season, which is dependent on various scenarios actually happening, which will fire them up ahead of the new season, which could see them with another new manager, if rumours are correct. There will be a number of key battles against Southampton, of which this could be three of them…

Eric Bailly -v- Manolo Gabbiadini

This season Eric Bailly has been the best central defender at the club, closely matched by Marcos Rojo, who suffered a season-ending injury to his knee against Anderlecht at Old Trafford last month. Bailly was sent off in the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo, which will see him miss the final – a big blow for United, especially in that Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will be part of the squad, both of whom are not they players they could have been. The Ivorian averages nine defensive actions in the Premier League this season, having played 23 matches in the competition. He helps United with their passing, averaging 87% successfully finding a teammate. Bailly may have to deal with Manolo Gabbiadini, who has scored six goals for his club in all competitions this season. Gabbiadini has played eight times in the league this season, scoring four goals. That might not be deemed much of a threat, but in the EFL Cup final at Wembley, Gabbiadini was in form and raring to go, scoring twice and could have had a hat-trick, should another not have been ruled out.

Paul Pogba -v- Jordy Clasie

Paul Pogba was a big miss against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Sunday, but due to the death of his father, he was given time away from the club to pay his respects. This season the French international has played 29 times in the league, scoring four goals. His creativity is something United cannot live without this season, creating 55 chances for his teammates for them to spurn, which has been an issue for much of the season. United started well, scoring plenty of goals, but that soon turned to frustration with many being frustrated with Pogba for not scoring more, when in fact, it was the advanced attacking players not dealing with the chances he has created for them, most of which have gone to waste. Pogba is a big player in the midfield and will have battles with many players, possible Jordy Clasie. Clasie is a player who was once linked to Manchester United, albeit under the management of Louis van Gaal with many Dutch players being linked to the club. Clasie could be the guy to try and stop Pogba in his tracks, should he play. His passing stands at 85%, which is good. He also averages two defensive actions per match, which could be the difference between United scoring and Southampton keeping a clean sheet.

Marcus Rashford -v- Maya Yoshida

Marcus Rashford is the man of the moment at Manchester United, tasked with scoring the goals after the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic last month. Rashford has done the business for United, helping them through in the Europa League and scoring a crucial goal against Chelsea last month. It is early days for the 19-year-old, but at this stage of the season, everything seems to be on him at being able to find the back of the net to ensure United achieve what they crave for – UEFA Champions League football. Rashford has played 31 times in the Premier League this season, scoring five goals, which is not all that bad considering he has been played as a winger for much of the season, with Ibrahimovic leading the line. The England international has created 19 chances for his teammates, but will be the target man should he play against Southampton. Maya Yoshida could be tasked with dealing with Rashford with Virgil van Dijk on the sidelines through injury. Yoshida has 20 appearances to his name in the Premier League this season, scoring one goal. Yoshida is a threat going forward, creating four chances for his teammates. Keeping Rashford at bay may be his main responsibility in that if the Saints can silence Rashford, they could silence United and frustrate them even more.

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