Manchester United return to Premier League action as they face Southampton at St Mary’s on Sunday afternoon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be fresh from their 4-1 victory over Istanbul Basaksehir, which saw a brace from Bruno Fernandes and a goal each from Marcus Rashford (from the penalty spot) and Daniel James, who scored his first goal of the season and his first in the UEFA Champions League during his career, which will have been a big occasion for him. Southampton will have had more rest being that they played a day before United, despite United also playing on Saturday evening.
United will be seeking to end November on a high, especially with nine matches to play in December – five of those to be played in a 12-day period between the 17th and 29th December. Solskjaer will be looking to keep United on the right track, which they seem to be on right now after their defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir just over three weeks ago, winning their last three matches in a row. With December looking like an important month, Solskjaer will be seeking to put United towards the top of the table, which is a possibility. United are not a terrible team but they have been playing terribly, perhaps because of a lack of pre-season this summer.
How United have faired against Southampton in the Premier League.
United and the Saints have played a total of 42 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 26 times, the Saints have won seven times and the two teams have drawn nine times. United have scored 84 goals against the Saints; winning three penalties – scoring one of them. The Saints have scored 48 goals against United; winning one penalty and failing to score it. United have kept 11 clean sheets against Southampton with the Saints keeping six. In terms of discipline, United have been shown 55 yellow cards and one red card whereas the Saints have been shown 68 yellow cards and one red card.
In the last two Premier League matches played, neither team has won. At St Mary’s, which was played on the 31 August 2019, it was a 1-1 draw with Daniel James opening the scoring in the tenth minute of the match and Jannik Vestergaard scoring the equaliser in the 58th minute. Kevin Danso was sent off (second yellow card) in the 72nd minute of the match. At Old Trafford, which was played on the 13 July 2020, it was a 2-2 draw with Stuart Armstrong opening the scoring in the 12th minute, Marcus Rashford equalising in the 20th minute, Anthony Martial putting United ahead in the 23rd minute and Michael Obafemi equalising in added time.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Southampton in the Premier League at St Mary’s on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea has been slowly returning to the form we have witnessed during his time as United’s number one. Dean Henderson will be playing a big part in that because of his ability in the position, which will ultimately become his in a matter of time. The Spaniard has confidence behind him and the will to win and succeed. That is enough to see the best of the 30-year-old at a time where United will require a solid goalkeeper to grind out the results. Between now and the end of 2020, United will be seeking to rise towards the summit of the Premier League. Some say this is a bad season but when you look at the gap, with United’s game in hand, they could be in the mix with the right results.
Defenders: Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles
United could have a few injury problems in defence for this match with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof both on the sidelines which could see them its this match. In case that happens, Brandon Williams could feature in the right-back position with Axel Tuanzebe partnering Harry Maguire in the centre of the defence. Alex Telles should keep his place at left-back, despite the fact that Luke Shaw has returned to training, not that he would be in action against his former club as it might be a bit soon for him. Solskjaer will have an eye on the defence, which has been United’s Achilles heel this season with a view to strengthening in January.
Midfield Two: Donny van de Beek, Fred
The midfield is an area that is very light in competition at this moment in time with Paul Pogba injured and not in great form, also with Scott McTominay likely out of action for a while. This leaves Fred and Donny van de Beek as the best options at this moment in time with Nemanja Matic a likely option from the bench should United need more defensive ability in the positions. Fred has risen to become a big game player at the club with his work rate and eye for winning the ball. He has received criticism but his form is here. The Dutchman has not started all that often and played well earlier in the week so will deserve to keep his place in the team.
Attacking Midfield: Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood
This is the area where the goals could be coming from. Bruno Fernandes is in the form of his life at this moment in time and is currently the clubs top scorer with nine goals in all competitions so far this season. Anthony Martial played a bit better on the left-wing, the position he used to play in before being made the main striker at the club. With the ability of Cavani, it could bring the Frenchman up to speed as he is not the best leader of the line at the club. With Marcus Rashford carrying an injury and the fact he could miss this match, Mason Greenwood could be drafted in to play on the right-wing, a position he has played in for a while now.
Forward: Edinson Cavani
The Uruguayan striker played some fantastic football against Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League on Tuesday evening and showed a different dimension of attack for the club, which was a positive. Cavani should lead the linen against Southampton based purely on the fact that he is a predatory striker that can be in the box when needed but also create some build up play for his teammates. It could well be that Marcus Rashford misses the match through injury or only comes off the bench with a bid to keeping him fit for the busy month of December which will see United play nine matches in total.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Tim Fosu-Mensah; Paul Pogba, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic; Marcus Rashford
With just three substitutes permitted in the Premier League and other domestic competition this season, despite the UEFA Champions League having up to five substitutes, Solskjaer will be looking to have the best available players on the bench. Against Southampton, it is expected that Dean Henderson will be the substitute goalkeeper. In defence, Victor Lindelof could be involved if fit with Tim Fosu-Mensah covering in the fullback areas. In midfield; Paul Pogba, Daniel James and Nemanja Matic could be options. In attack, Marcus Rashford could come off the bench with a view to him not being fully fit to start but we shall see.
Written by John Walker