Manchester United travel to St Mary’s to face Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. It is the second match of the season for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and after the 5-2 destruction of Leeds United at Old Trafford last weekend, he will be confident of another three points in the bag this weekend. However, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton will be seeking to get back to winning ways in the league this season after their 3-1 defeat to Everton last weekend. United have the added benefit of know they took all six points against Southampton last season, winning 3-2 in they fixture, which included a late winner by Edinson Cavani, also winning 9-0 at Old Trafford just over two months later. This is a new season though and there is nothing granted in football. United will be tested, like they always have been at St Mary’s.
United sit top of the league at the time of writing, but that will change before a ball is kicked at St Mary’s on Sunday. Liverpool, Brentford, Everton and Watford all play before United this weekend and as they all won last weekend, they have a good chance of earning six points from their first two matches this season – which is also what United will be seeking to achieve on Sunday. Tottenham Hotspur kick off at the same time as United, and after beating Manchester City last weekend, will be seeking to start strongly, despite their defeat in the play-off round of the UEFA Europa Conference League against Paços de Ferreira on Thursday. Chelsea will go head to head with Arsenal for their chance to challenge for the top spot in the league in the second week of the season. United will have many challengers this season and they will need to work hard to reach the promised land.
Previous meetings with Southampton and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Southampton have met a total of 44 times in the Premier League. United have won 28 matches, drawing nine with the Saints winning seven times. The Red Devils have scored a grand total of 96 goals against Southampton with the South Coast club scoring 50 against United. The Red Devils have won four penalties against the Saints, scoring two of them with the Saints winning one penalty against United and failing to score it. United have kept a total of 12 clean sheets with the Saints keeping just six. Based on the history of these two clubs, there have not really been many discipline issues between the two clubs with United players being shown 57 yellow cards and one red card and the Saints players being shown 72 yellow cards and three red cards. There is no really rivalry between these clubs but it can be a cup final for the Saints.
Over the years there has been many players who have turned out for both United and the Saints. Luke Shaw is the current player to fit that bill, signing for United in the summer of 2014 just before Louis van Gaal became the manager of the club. He is the player that has proven himself the most in the last few years and could be considered as one of the best left-backs in world football at this time. His form last season and for England during Euro 2020 has been great for him He also started the season well against Leeds United at the Theatre of Dreams last weekend as United won 5-1. Other players to have played for both clubs are Danny Wallace, Danny Higginbotham, Joe Jordan, Mark Hughes, Morgan Schneiderlin and Andrei Kanchelskis. This match will see United wear their new third kit for the first time – some may compare it to a match at the Dell in 1996.
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 started the season as United’s number one goalkeeper and will be determined to continue that way. Despite conceding a goal against Leeds last weekend, which was an early goal of the season contender from Luke Ayling, he did well in his position and was not really tested. That will start to change as the season goes on. Southampton will be seeking to come back from a 3-1 defeat to Everton on the opening weekend, so there will be a threat coming from them. Wether they are able to contain United remains to be seen though. I am sure that Dean Henderson, when he is fit and Tom Heaton will be seeking to challenge De Gea for the starting position in the team, which could bring out the best of all three players, who are all top goalkeepers but have their main strengths in different areas. Let’s see how the season pans out.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence is about to his its strongest heading into the new season. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw both seem to be doing well in the fullback positions and there is hope that if Kieran Tripper cannot be signed this summer that Diogo Dalot cold challenge for the right-back position. There is also Alex Telles to challenge Shaw, when he is back to full fitness. The main strength will come from Raphael Varane integrating into the first team after being announced before kick-off against Leeds last weekend, which really gave the Old Trafford crowd something to sing about. Partnering him with Harry Maguire could be the defence that is needed to get United to the next level. Granted, there will be mistakes in them at times but that could be said about any player to have played football at a high level in the sports entire history.
Midfield: Fred, Scott McTominay
Despite the massive hysteria of Fred and Scott McTominay being named in a starting XI, they tend to do well together against the lesser opposition. They both did well against Leeds, with Fred scoring his first goal of the season. Of course, no matter what they do on the pitch, there will always be the moaners who don’t take much notice and continue belittling the players. What do they know anyway? Granted, against teams like Liverpool, Manchester City etc, Fred and McTominay may not work, which is why United have other midfielders. A new midfielder arriving at the club this summer would be good for a title push, but without it, United will have to make do. I would like to see Donny van de Beek added to the midfield. During pre-season, I thought he did well, especially against Everton. Perhaps Solskjaer will get him integrated into the team this season?
Attacking Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba
This could be the first chance to get United’s new attacking line accustomed to each other. Bruno Fernandes will play in the central role in the three behind the striker, which saw him score a hat-trick against Leeds last week, starting off the season to a very high standard. Paul Pogba cold feature on the left-wing again, which is a position that he has played in at times last season. He assisted four times against Leeds, which showed a different Pogba who seemed to be in the form of his life. Hopefully that will continue at St Mary’s on Sunday. Jadon Sancho came off the bench against Leeds and despite being pretty quite, started to settle in at the club. It may take him some time to find his feet in the Premier League but he will start doing that in these next two matches before the first international break of the season.
Forwards: Mason Greenwood
The 19-year-old scored his first goal of the season against Leeds United last weekend and it was a stunning finish for the academy graduate. Having played many minutes during the pre-season campaign, he seemed to be ready for the rigours of the season and started in fine fettle. He will continue to grow this season after breaking records at the club as a teenager, stlll having the option to further his records before he turns 20 in October. I reckon that after his performance against Leeds, he is undroppable this weekend and will lead the line, which could change throughout the match with the player changing positions regularly, so as not to see United become complacent and to keep the opposition on their toes. Solskjaer will have continued to get Greenwood to work hard in training this week ahead of the challenge of the Saints, who need to bounce back.
Substitutes: Tom Heaton; Victor Lindelof, Diogo Dalot, Brandon Williams; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Donny van de Beek; Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial
The bench for this match could be quite strong for this match considering the number of players at United at this time, even though there have been a number of departures on loan during the last 24 hours or so. Tom Heaton may have to wait for his competitive United debut and with Dean Henderson returning to training this week, there could be plenty of surprises in store in the goalkeeping area. Victor Lindelof, Diogo Dalot and Brandon Williams could be available, although the latter will be heading out on loan next week. In midfield, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard (who is once again linked to West Ham United) and Donny van de Beek could play a part in this match. In attack, despite only returning to training this week, Edinson Cavani could be back in action with Anthony Martial as the other forward on the bench.
Written by John Walker