Manchester United welcome Southampton to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Tuesday evening. United have been in poor form for the past two matches, losing to Sheffield United and drawing against Arsenal. United have been a different team away from home that at the Theatre of Dreams and this will be a big test for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side this season. United have been at the top of the league but currently sit in second place after Leeds United beat Leicester City in one of Sunday’s matches, leaving United safe, for now. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s sides form has dropped since the start of the season and he will be looking to bring it back.
Now that Liverpool are back to scoring, winning their last two matches in a row, United will be under much more pressure to keep their apparent title charge alive, even though the majority are against them winning the league this season, not that it is a possibility right now with just under half the season left to play. You cannot blame factions of the fan base from being positive though, as United have come a long way under Solskjaer than they ever did under Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and David Moyes. Some will suggest that is rubbish as Van Gaal and Mourinho brought three major honours to the club during their time.
How United have faired against Southampton in the Premier League.
United and the Saints have met 43 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 27 times, drawing nine times and losing seven times. United have scored a total of 87 goals, conceding 50 with United winning three penalties and scoring one with the Saints winning one and failing to score. United have kept 11 clean sheets with the Saints keeping six. United have received 55 yellow cards and one red card. The Saints have received 69 yellow cards and one red card. The past two matches have been frustrating for United, losing once and drawing once and not really threatening in front of goal much in those two matches.
Earlier in the season, with Southampton in much better form, United visited St Mary’s winning the match 3-2. Southampton led 2-0 with goals from Jan Bednarek and James Ward-Prowse at half time with Bruno Fernandes getting United back in the game in the 60th minute and Edinson Cavani scoring a late brace to give United all three points. At Old Trafford last season, it was a 2-2 draw between these two sides with Stuart Armstrong opening the scoring, Marcus Rashford equalising, Anthony Martial putting United in the lead for the first time in the match which led to Michael Obafemi levelling the score in added time.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Southampton in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
I expect David De Gea to keep his place against Southampton with United needing to find defensive purity after their clean sheet against Arsenal and find a way to score the goals, which is more important at this time. De Gea made a few good saves to deny Arsenal from scoring at the Emirates on Saturday and I am sure he will be ready to step in should Southampton pose more of a challenge for United at the Theatre of Dreams on Tuesday evening. De Gea has had some blips over the past few seasons but there is still something there to drive him to become that player he was after Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United kept a clean sheet against Arsenal and despite that being a positive, Arsenal won four points against United this season, keeping a clean sheet both times. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was one of the stars in the 0-0 draw with Arsenal, doing a lot both defensively and offensively. Because of this, he will keep his place against Southampton. Luke Shaw, who has had his own purple patch this season, should also keep his place against the Saints. Harry Maguire is one of the first names on the team sheet right now and his partner should be Eric Bailly, who has been missing for a few matches after showing some form himself recently.
Midfield Three: Donny van de Beek, Fred, Paul Pogba
A three-man midfield seemed to give United a good start against Arsenal, however, Scott McTominay’s stomach complaint stopped that with the player not recovering and having to be replaced by Anthony Martial. Fred played a good game and for that reason, he should keep his place as the defensive-minded midfielder in the team. Paul Pogba has been playing well lately and he too should keep his place in the team as he could be an output in an attacking sense. With McTominay coming off early against Arsenal, he might not feature against Southampton. In which case, Donny van de Beek should start as he has the talent and drive to succeed.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes has had a good year at United but the match to mark that was not the best for him or United. His hunger, drive and sheer determination to succeed is second to none at the club and when he cannot pull the strings or delivery something, there is no-one else that will be more frustrated than him. Fernandes has scored 28 goals and 18 assists since joining United a year ago, which is a great achievement for the player. He has had a great start to life at United, much like that of Eric Cantona in the years gone by. Fernandes will continue to do what he does best and will strive to create things against the Saints on Tuesday evening.
Forwards: Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani
United might need to tweak the formation against the Saints, playing two forwards in stead of just one. Edinson Cavani has been a good signing for United despite the five goals and two assists he has scored. Many of which have been important for the player and the club moving forward. He’s a better striker that Anthony Martial, who has not really inspired much this season. Mason Greenwood should partner him in his favoured position, which might work out well for United. Goals needs to be scored and the club needs to get points on the board. Martial and Marcus Rashford could have some involvement from the bench, if needed.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles; Juan Mata, Amad Diallo, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
United can name nine substitutes on the bench, using three of them. Dean Henderson will remain one the bench against Southampton with David De Gea looking to make his mark for his club once again. In defence, Victor Lindelof and Alex Telles could offer something, if the ante needs to be changes throughout the match. In midfield, the experience of Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic could offer stability but the pace of both Daniel James and Amad Diallo, who scored a brace against Liverpool for the U23’s on Saturday could be a good outcome. In attack, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford will be available to offer something, if required.
Written by John Walker