Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 2-0 Southampton – Premier League 2016/17

Premier League football made it return to Old Trafford in some style beating Southampton by a 2-0 scoreline, both scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. #Pogback was everywhere before the game and he carried on that with an excellent performance on debut. United started with a strong 4-2-3-1 line up featuring Fellaini alongside Paul Pogba and Juan Mata retaining his place on the right-hand side.

The first half was what you’d call competitive, both teams settling on the ball for extended periods, United looking to break through the centre of the park and Southampton looking to counter as best as they could. United’s best play in the first half came down the right-hand side with Valencia getting forward well as he did in the games against Leicester and Bournemouth and this was probably helped with Juan Mata not playing as a winger but drifting in to a central role alongside Rooney. This might seem a contradictory statement as you’d assume having a winger would be beneficial, but as Mata drifted in, as did the defenders covering him providing space for Valencia to run into.

Juan Mata Heat Map against Southampton [Squawka]

Juan Mata Heat Map against Southampton [Squawka]

Manchester United Player Influence against Southampton [FourFourTwo StatsZone]

Manchester United Player Influence against Southampton [FourFourTwo StatsZone]

The first goal came from the right too as Wayne Rooney drifted wide, took his time and picked out Zlatan Ibrahimovic who towered above Fonte and hammered his header home. This was a deserved goal as United looked the stronger of the two teams going into the break, Ibrahimovic and Pogba both going close. Soon after the break Luke Shaw was taken down inside the area, allowing Zlatan to step up and make it his second of the game. United managed 11 shots in the game with  on target as well as nine clear-cut chances created

Manchester United Shots versus Southampton [FourFourTwo StatsZone]

Manchester United Shots versus Southampton [FourFourTwo StatsZone]

Paul Pogba was someone touted for a good game today and he had one hell of a debut. He was dominant in his runs and showed his class in all aspects. He challenged well in the air, managed the full 90 minutes but he seriously impressed technically. His vision is something United have lacked in recent seasons, he sees the runs before they happen. 8 successful take ons and 5 interceptions are just some of the highlights statistically, this is his first game…exciting times ahead for Paul Pogba.

Paul Pogba stats versus Southampton [FourFourTwo StatZone]

Paul Pogba stats versus Southampton [FourFourTwo StatZone]

This was a tough test for Jose Mourinho’s men, Bournemouth will have given them great confidence but Southampton provided a more challenging game highlighted by their dominant possession (53% to 47%). Southampton themselves still look a few players short going forward but the pace of Redmond was matched up well by Eric Bailly throughout the game, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia did well both defensively and offensively and De Gea barely had a thing to do. Promising signs in these two opening games, especially in the way United look to break down their opposition defence, tactical and methodological, rather than the poor attempts to throw everything forward and get caught on the counter.

It’s still not the complete performance but when Pogba settles in better, Henrikh Mkhitaryan gets a run of games and more confidence is gained, this United team will rival anyone they come up against. The best is yet to come.

What We Learned: Manchester United 2-0 Southampton – Premier League 2016/17

Manchester United beat Southampton 2-0 at Old Trafford in the Premier League, making it two wins out of two and holding into their top spot in the league until at least tomorrow. The first game of the season at Old Trafford was a good one, United looked good on the pitch, threatened their opposition and got the better of them each and every time. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Man of the Match made a great impression on his teammates, scoring the opening goal of the match nine minutes before half-time and scoring a penalty after Luka Shaw was felled in the area by Jordy Clasie. The Swedish striker is a classy player with lots of experience to give, and to suggest many did not want him at the club during the European Championships after he made little impact for his country, that just makes it all look a bit better.

Jose Mourinho loves Manchester United

Since being announced as the new manager back in May, Jose Mourinho has shown his love for United. The quickness of getting  three out of four of his transfer targets across the line, the fact he seems to have been preparing for his new job since the New Year and the speed of implementing his ways at the club. Mourinho has won the hearts of many United supporters, even ones who did not want him at the club. The fact that he has brought a new dawn to the club, brought the confidence back and allowed his players the freedom to express themselves on the pitch, that is what is making the start of this season all the better. I have a lot of respect for David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, they tried to run the club, one failed quickly, the other made a lot of changes, created a foundation at the club and then was out of his depth, despite him not feeling it. Mourinho though seems to have changed all the wrong things quickly, waking the sleeping dragon which is Manchester United.

Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia on fire

Both Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia have performed well this season so far. Valencia seems to be the player he was a few years back, but like many, I do not think he will maintain his form across the season. Shaw, returning from last season’s injury, has done well to get where he is currently. He seems to have put last season’s devastating injury behind him, learning from it and moving on to better himself. He dominated the left flank, getting forward for a lot of the match and doing what he could to assist Anthony Martial, his teammate in attack. Valencia, seeming to be a version of himself from years ago, did the same on the right, dominating on the flank, getting forward to assist his teammates, putting in some crosses (not all were successful) to create opportunities for the attack to score. Valencia did impress me at one point, beating his man, jumping over him to continue his attack, which took my mind back to when he did the same under Sir Alex Ferguson on the right-wing. Long may it continue, but I believe a new right-back need to be found with Timothy Fosu-Mensah looking to be that guy based on last season’s performance, but that might be a long way away at this moment in time.

Eric Bailly is still the man

The Ivorian signed for United shortly after Jose Mourinho was named the manager, and despite the Portuguese suggesting that he might need some time to settle into a new league, despite impressing in La Liga for Villarreal last season. Bailly has a mixed pre-season, performing well at times, then looking like he needed time, but from the FA Community Shield, where United beat reigning Premier League champions Leicester City 2-1, then the opening Premier League match where United beat Bournemouth 3-1, Bailly was named Man of the Match (in both matches) putting in a dominant performance in which he looked great defending his area and looked a long way from the player many, even Mourinho thought he would be. His performance against Southampton continued his good run, but he was not the Man of the Match at Old Trafford, that was handed to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Bailly maintained his passing at 93%, won 100% of his aerial duels, made four interceptions, nine clearances, committed two fouls and one block. Bailly is definitely a player that Mourinho needs to keep in his starting XI, partnering Daley Blind well in defence. Chris Smalling returned in the final minutes of the match, but will need some time on the pitch before he even thinks about taking Bailly’s place in the starting XI.

Paul Pogba is a cracking midfielder

What an excellent signing Paul Pogba was. He loves being back home. Four years ago when he left the club, I never thought I would see the day when he was wearing the famous red shirt of Manchester United, today I saw that. Despite not really having a pre-season, Pogba looked fresh and lasted 90 minutes, with many assuming he would be substituted around the hour mark of the match. The Frenchman has four shots on goal; one on target and three off target. He maintained a pass success rate of 84% and created two chances for his teammates. In the final minutes of the match, Pogba was through on goal and missed his shot and in the interviews after the match, Zlatan was joking with him about passing the ball, which could have completed his hat-trick, all in jest of course. It is early days for Pogba and his match fitness may not be at the level it needs to be and with him having a good game, full fitness will turn him into some player. United could be back this season, I am sure the rivals will have missed that, not!

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is past it!

I remember when the Swedish international was first linked to Manchester United, many were suggesting that he was past it. He would not fit into the Premier League. He is too old. The last thing United needed was another veteran player. You know what, they were wrong! Many seemed to judge Zlatan on his performances for Sweden at the European Championships in the summer, in a team that did not look all that great. Like Zlatan himself said, when the team plays well, the individual plays well. That seems to be ingrained into his mentality, and for a player as successful as Zlatan to say that, it is not worth arguing with. The guy has scored four goals in three competitive matches for United this season so far, three of those from open play, one from the penalty spot. Zlatan seems to have adapted to the Premier League like a duck to water, a quick transition when many assumed that he would be another Radamel Falcao. Obviously, if he deteriorates in the future, which would be expected, he has already eclipsed what Falcao achieved for United in a season (scoring four goals), in just three matches.


Manchester United are returning to their best, which should appease the opposition supporters who have mocked the club since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson three years ago. United have been poor, at best, despite lifting the FA Community Shield under David Moyes, and the Emirates FA Cup under Louis van Gaal in three years. Under Mourinho, the world seems to be their oyster with the Community Shield already in the bag and United having a good start to the season, so far at least. United have won both Premier League matches they have played, home and away and have 36 matches left to play in the league. This season could shock everyone with United looking to regain their place at the top of the league. It may or may not work like that, but early indications are that it will be a much better season than the last three. United have the winning mentality, brought back by Mourinho and Ibrahimovic, they have class players all over the pitch and players who will reach their peak under the Portuguese. The signings Mourinho has made this summer will go a long way to bringing United back to where they belong and it has certainly solved the goalscoring problem with United scoring seven goals in three matches so far this season, conceding just twice.

Starting XI: Manchester United v Southampton – Premier League 2016/17

Manchester United face Southampton at Old Trafford in the Premier League this evening. Southampton, at Old Trafford at least, has been a bit of a bogey side for United with them winning their last two visits with a 1-0 scoreline. The match before that was a 1-1 draw with United not beating the South Coast side since their 2-1 victory on the 30th January 2013. United manager Jose Mourinho will be keen to end the Saint’s dominance at Old Trafford post-Sir Alex Ferguson, sealing his second victory in the league this season. United started the season well with a 2-1 victory over Premier League champions Leicester City, winning the FA Community Shield at Wembley, followed by a 3-1 victory away over Bournemouth, which is great start to the season considering matches against Leicester have resulted in three 1-1 draws and  a 5-3 defeat, and that Bournemouth beat United in their away fixture last season, which started a pretty hostile period for the club with Louis van Gaal linked with the sack last Christmas. Here are the starting XI’s and list of substitutes for both teams this evening.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw;

Fellaini, Pogba;

Mata, Rooney, Martial;



Romero; Smalling; Young, Herrera, Mkhitaryan, Schneiderlin; Rashford



Cedric, Fonte, Van Dijk, Targett;

Davis, Romeu, Hojbjerg;


Redmond, Long


McCarthy; Yoshida; Clasie, Ward-Prowse, Pied; Rodriguez, Austin

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

Friday night football, Old Trafford, and Paul Pogba all return to our lives this Friday night! After an extremely promising opening game away at Bournemouth, top of the table United return home to Old Trafford where they come up against Southampton, who managed a draw under new boss Claude Puel. All eyes will be on Manchester United’s new number six as Paul Pogba will look to set the stage alight after his world record transfer from Juventus. This is something so many people are dying to see but I’m sure Ander Herrera isn’t one of those. After playing well against Leicester and Bournemouth he would have been hoping to nail down a starting spot as the box to box midfielder but with Pogba’s return, it’s likely Herrera will find his starting place on the bench. Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini or Morgan Schneiderlin will partner Pogba in the middle of the park. The question is, who?

Firstly to the man who causes more angry tweets when he is announced in the starting XI more than potentially anyone in the history of football, Marouane Fellaini. I’m not his biggest fan but he was immense against Bournemouth, dictated the defensive play with a passing accuracy of 99% from 76 passes and six important defensive contributions. His style is often sloppy and aggressive but anchored the midfield well when Ander Herrera had the license to bomb forward, which Pogba will have on Friday. Mourinho has shown faith in Fellaini thus far and might well do the same after his performance v Bournemouth.



Next in line is the veteran Michael Carrick. After signing a new contract in the off-season he is likely to take a more relaxed role this season assisting the squad and being a character in the dressing room. He didn’t feature in the weekend’s game at Bournemouth from the bench but had a wealth of experience behind him which could be useful alongside the returnee Pogba. His passing stats last season were good, averaging a passing accuracy of 86% and averaging three defensive actions per game. We’re not sure this will be enough to convince Mourinho to make him a starter against Southampton but his impact would be happily received by the United faithful.


Finally is Pogba’s French team-mate and genuine holding midfielder, Morgan Schneiderlin. His time under Louis van Gaal was extremely stop start and when he had a good run of games, the Dutch manager decided to drop him. Schneiderlin is someone who will hold a defensive midfielder role down to a tee, nothing exciting or with flair but who does a job and will provide a great deal of stability to this attack-minded United team. He only featured for nine minutes after coming on against Bournemouth but last season, he managed better stats than Michael Carrick, with a passing average of 89% and four defensive contributions per game in an unsteady season. If he gets the chance to perform at the top-level consistently then it’ll only help his game develop, especially being alongside an international team-mate.


Southampton could only manage a draw against Watford at the weekend, where a Nathan Redmond goal helped them achieve a 1-1 scoreline. Under new boss, Claude Puel Southampton lined up in 4-4-1-1 formation with new signing Redmond starting behind Shane Long. It is likely this will be the setup Puel goes for against United as the pace of both those strikers is something that’d threaten the United back four.


As you can see, Southampton dominated the game with all attacking areas including possession, shots, and corners. They won’t have the same luck against United, though, especially at Old Trafford but it will be interesting to see if they approach the game with the same attacking vigor. Redmond was wasteful in his chances but did get a goal eventually and maybe after a game to break his nerves, they’ll get a better performance out of him this week.

Key Battles

Luke Shaw v Dusan Tadic

These two going head to head is an exciting prospect. Tadic has had a great start to the season with Southampton and is a quick, strong and direct minded player, someone who will beat his man either side and can produce some wonderful crosses. Shaw will have his hands full for sure but he’s proven in the past that he is comfortable against pace as well as trickery. His fitness has been improving and looks stronger than ever, if he can manage to click with Martial on the left, they’ll cause havoc throughout the league.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Jose Fonte

Two experienced players head to head and this will prove a tough test for both men. Zlatan has the height advantage but I wouldn’t underestimate the power of Fonte, there is a reason United are looking at his as a potential purchase to assist Smalling and Bailly. IF Fonte, and it is a big if, can handle Zlatan tomorrow it’ll mean United will have a blunted attack, making it harder to score and show Jose Mourinho what he could have for a small fee.

Nathan Redmond v Eric Bailly

Eric Bailly has been the complete defender in his two full games at United picking up Man of the Match on both occasions, however now he’ll encounter pace of the highest degree in Nathan Redmond. The new boy from Norwich scored on his debut against Watford and will only settle into the role better. Bailly will need to keep tabs on him and not allow the runs in behind him and Smalling, otherwise, it’ll be a tough day for the United defence.

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

Press Conference: Pogba fit to face Southampton; maybe more signings on the way!

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho sat down with the media ahead of Friday’s Premier League clash with Southampton at Old Trafford. United started the season well with a 2-1 victory over champions Leicester City in the FA Community Shield nearly a fortnight ago, following that up with a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth last weekend, starting the season in winning fashion for the Red Devils. Mourinho and his squad will be looking to continue that for on Friday night at Old Trafford, cashing Claude Puel’s Southampton to remain unbeaten. Paul Pogba, United world record signing was unable to face Bournemouth at the weekend due to being suspended for accumulating too many yellow cards in the Coppa Italia last season. The manager insists that he is fit to face Southampton, which will be something many have been waiting for, for the last four years no doubt. Here are the main points from the press conference:

Jose Mourinho on Paul Pogba’s fitness and how he has settled in after his return to Manchester United:

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

“He has adapted really easily because he knows the club, knows everybody. He has no need to have time to adapt, but he’ll need time to build his condition and his understanding of how the team plays and how he’ll fit in with that.”

Mourinho on how Zlatan Ibrahimovic has taken to life at the Old Trafford club:

“I see him happy. I ask about his family, his wife, his kids – I know how important these things are to him – integration, house and everything is fine and everybody is happy. He has a very high motivation, so I see him here, no doubts, for the next two years.”

Mourinho on the surprise after Eric Bailly seems to have started well this season:

“He is a young boy playing in a completely different competition with a different club, but despite all the pressure and expectation that comes with playing for United, he plays against Leicester at Wembley and is comfortable, leading and communicative.”

Mourinho when asked about the Old Trafford fear factor making a return:

“Not me, but the team, yes. The fans can also help. Everything starts there: the relationship between the team and the fans. If there is a connection then the factor of being really strong at home has to back. The way we play [will help] and if the fans play [a part] there’ll be no chance for the opponent.”

Mourinho when asked if he will be making any further signings this summer:

“The market is open until 31 August, but I am very happy with the players I have. I keep saying that I don’t talk about players from other clubs.”

Manchester United are in good shape right now. Winning their first two matches of the season; FA Community Shield 2-1 against Leicester City and their Premier League opener, 3-1 away to Bournemouth. Continuing this run against Southampton at Old Trafford could state their case to the club’s rivals. Mourinho was asked if the fear factor could come back to Old Trafford, and he said yes but it will be because of his team, not him, which seems like a good comment to make. Paul Pogba is fit to face Southampton, making his second debut for the Old Trafford club. Chris Smalling is also fit, but could face a problem getting back into the team as both Eric Bailly and Daley Blind have played well together, with Bailly taking his chance to impress the manager, his teammates, and the club’s supporters.

Mourinho was asked if he will be making any more signings this summer after bringing Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba to the club this summer, with a few players, namely Jose Fonte, Gabriel Barbosa and Fabinho linked to the club in recent weeks. The manager did not give any indication as to whether he would be making some more signings, just stating that the window closes on the 31st August, less than two weeks away, so I guess we will see what happens. United seem to be a better team this season, the play has improved but is still in its early days yet. I am sure the players will be more determined to get back to where they once were this season, after three seasons out of it all. The sleeping dragon seems to have awakened.

copyright: JW