Preview: Manchester United v Southampton – Premier League 2016/17

Old Trafford, Manchester

Premier League 2016/17

Friday 19th August 2016 – KO 20:00 [Live on Sky Sports]

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Assistant Referees: Richard West and Adrian Holmes

Fourth Official: Andre Marriner

Manchester United face Southampton at Old Trafford on Friday evening, their first home match of the new season. United beat Bournemouth 3-1 at Dean Court on Sunday, starting the season well – all without really going into the next gear. Southampton will be a tougher team to break down, especially after their poor start to the season with a 1-1 draw at home to Watford. Jose Mourinho will be free to unleash his new world record signing Paul Pogba in the Premier League, four years after he left the club. United will be looking to maintain their good form, which started competitively at least in the FA Community Shield by beating Leicester City 2-1 at Wembley almost a fortnight ago. Speaking in his press conference today, Jose Mourinho confirmed that both Pogba and Chris Smalling were fit to face Southampton, with the former destined to make his second debut at Old Trafford on Friday night.

Mourinho also confirmed that Pogba has settled back into life at United, which is great to hear. United should have a full squad to content with ahead of the match with Jesse Lingard the only injury, and he is not expected to be out for the long-term, in fact he could face Southampton. Mourinho was also asked about the fear factor returning to Old Trafford under his watch, but he stated it will be because of the team and not him, which was also refreshing to hear. Mourinho was not my first choice as manager, but he has done well since he got the job and looks a long way off the kind of manager he was at Chelsea, which was one of the reasons I disliked him. It seems he is now managing a club he wants to manage, which makes it all the better. Speaking about Pogba during Thursday’s press conference, Mourinho said:

“He’s ready to play. We played against Leicester with players with less training than him and we look at that match as a way to improve them, to accelerate that process. With Paul, it’s a bit of the same – not one single minute of any pre-season match or friendly but almost two weeks of work with us. Sometimes with the group, sometimes separately, and the condition is okay to play some minutes and to accelerate the process.”

United have struggled against Southampton in recent years, losing twice in the last three matches at Old Trafford and in order to make Old Trafford a fortress again, beating teams at home will be needed, ensuring it will be hard for even the poorer teams in the league to grab some points at the Theatre of Dreams, which has been the case since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. United now have a good squad, fitness might be a problem as it always is early into the new season, but when the current squad begins to gel, the effect it could have on the rest of the league will be great, providing it works of course. Many are excited, including myself, to see Pogba back in the famous red shirt, some seem to think it is going to be a fairytale debut – expecting it to work from the off. It might not be like that with time needed for the player to settle. One thing is for sure, he is the player United have needed for sometime. I would like to see a 4-3-3 formation, minus Wayne Rooney as it is clear that he is losing his touch as the once-prolific player he was. Many may disagree, but looking at his gameplay, he is more of a risk than anyone else right now. Last season he was a passenger for most of the season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic at four years senior of Rooney seems to be much fitter and ready to win things. Having the likes of Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the squad, with the latter on the bench so far at the start of the season, would be ridiculous. Rooney, unless he is willing to better himself, should be dropped. I don’t care that he is England’s top goalscorer and within four goals of becoming the top goalscorer for the club, when a player is a passenger more often than not, it would be time for a reduced role. There are many Rooney lovers out there he seem to let their love for the player get in the way of the facts. There are many players I admire, but few I would like to see play for the club now. Once you have lost that skill you had, it is the beginning of the end. Over the last few matches, Rooney’s passing has been terrible, yes he defends and yes he scored on Sunday, but for over an hour on Sunday he was dredful. He also scored a routine header, not a spectacular bicycle kick!

Manchester United Form:- WWDWLW

AFC Bournemouth 3-1 W, Leicester City 2-1 W, Everton 0-0 D, Galatasaray 5-2 W, Borussia Dortmund 4-1 L, Wigan Athletic 2-0 W

Southampton Form:- DWDWWW

Watford 1-1 D, Athletic Bilbao 1-0 W, Espanyol 1-1 D, Groningen 1-0 W, Twente 2-1 W, PEC Zwolle 4-0 W

Manchester United Squad;

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Sam Johnstone

Defenders: Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Matteo Darmian, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

Suspensions/Injuries: Jesse Lingard (ankle/foot)

Southampton Squad:

Manager: Claude Puel

Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster, Alex McCarthy

Defenders: Cédric Soares, Maya Yoshida, Florin Gardoș, José Fonte, Cuco Martina, Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand, Jack Stephens, Jérémy Pied, Matt Targett

Midfielders: Jordy Clasie, Steven Davis, Dušan Tadić, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, Harrison Reed, Nathan Redmond, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Lloyd Isgrove, Sam McQueen

Forwards: Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin

Suspensions/Injuries: Ryan Bertrand (knee), Florin Gardoș (knee)

Predicted Starting XI:

Predicted Score:

Manchester United 2-0 Southampton

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copyright: JW

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