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MOTM: Phil Jones had a Man of the Match performance; Lukaku and Matic not far off that feat

Manchester United beat Southampton 1-0 at St Mary’s in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon in what was a hard-fought match. Romelu Lukaku scored in the 21st minute after Fraser Forster blocked his first shot, the Belgian banging the rebound into the back of the net. It was a match which saw manager Jose Mourinho sent to the stands in the latter minutes of the match with four United players; Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera. Mourinho had made defensive changes with United showing the maturity needed to win the Premier League, winning the matches they dropped points in last season – this one being a 0-0 draw in the penultimate match in May last season. There were three challengers for the Man of the Match in this match, these being:

Phil Jones

Phil Jones started the season in great form for Manchester United, being the preferred Premier League partner to Eric Bailly and showing himself as one of the stand-out defenders so far this season. Jones has not started in the UEFA Champions League or the Carabao Cup with Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof preferred, giving Jones and Bailly a rest to find the form they need to in the league, which is where Mourinho is trusting the pair. Against Southampton at St Mary’s. Jones has a 90% passing accuracy, putting in three tackles – winning them all, having eleven clearances, which helped United under pressure having an all-round good performance in the centre of United defence. Jones, who has had a few injury-plagued seasons, seems to be getting over that, is trusted by the manager and that seems to have turned him into the player he is becoming.

Nemanja Matic

Since Nemanja Matic signed for United, he has been a player who has been worth the transfer fee, no matter how many supporters moaned about him not being the player they wanted. Now they may realise that FIFA 18 is where YOU CHOOSE your team, Jose Mourinho chooses the real team, that is something you have to get used to. Matic has been part of every Premier League victory and the draw to Stoke, also a player who helped United win in the Champions League almost a fortnight ago. Matic is a massive loss for Chelsea but a much bigger gain for United. As the season goes on, Matic will show just why Mourinho has brought him into his team and he could be one of the players responsible for number 21! Against Southampton, Matic has two blocks, two interceptions, three tackles, five clearances and made 42 passes. Before the match, a stat confirmed that he ran an average of more than 11 kilometres in each Premier League match, showing the guys class.

Romelu Lukaku

The Belgian striker scored his eighth goal in eight matches, showing just why Mourinho spent upwards of £75 million on him. Many will moan and have done, about the player not doing enough, but if it were not for his goals, United would not be in the position they are today. Romelu Lukaku has scored some crucial goals and will score more as the season develops. United are not reliant on the striker, seeing more goals coming from different positions on the pitch based on all matches players so far this season, so like last season, with United relying on Zlatan Ibrahimovic too much, that is not the case. Talking about the Swedish striker, when he is back, United will have bags of goals on the pitch or the bench, meaning United will prove themselves this season, something which they have needed to do for the last four, nearly five years. Against Southampton on Saturday afternoon, Lukaku scored the only goal of the game, had two key passes, three dribbles, winning 50% of his aerial duels and having a 33% shot conversion, which may not be great, but with three points in the bag, was good enough.

Conclusion

Manchester United won another match in the league meaning their unbeaten streak has lasted the first six matches of the season, which is much different from last season. United are in much better shape but you will still find so-called supporters moaning as things should be better. In an ideal world, yes, they should be better, but we do not live in an ideal world. United have matched a record of 16 points in the league from the first six matches of the season, which shows this team is capable of achieving the things they crave, the Premier League title for a twenty-first time being one of those things. United will continue to perform this season. There are two away matches in the next week, away from Old Trafford seems to be where United do not entertain with goals galore, but that should not be expected. It doesn’t matter much how you win matches, just that you win matches.

Starting XI: Matic and Fellaini return; Lukaku leads the line at Southampton

Manchester United travel down to the South Coast of England for their first 15:00 BST kick off in the Premier League against Southampton at St Mary’s. United have started their league campaign on good stead this season, beating West Ham United (4-0), Swansea City (4-0), Leicester City (2-0), drawing with Stoke City (2-2) and beating Everton (4-0) last weekend. In the UEFA Champions League, United beat FC Basel (3-0) last week also winning in the third round fo the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night at Old Trafford, seeing off Championship side Burton Albion (4-1), conceding the first goal at Old Trafford this season. United will be looking to keep their Premier League season in good stead, seeking a victory away to Southampton, keeping in with a shout of staying at the top of the league, matching Manchester City with results, points and goals scored. Jose Mourinho’s side have had a great start this season.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Young;

Matic, Fellaini;

Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford;

Lukaku

Substitutes:

Romero; Smalling, Blind; Lingard, Carrick, Herrera; Martial

Manchester United and Southampton have played 121 matches in all competitions since the first fixture between the two sides, played on the 13th February 1897 – a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup with a 3-1 victory to Newton Heath four days later. United have won 68 times, drawing 30 and losing just 28, which will see Southampton as the side with all to achieve against United, who are starting to show their strength in the Premier League and beyond this season. In the last three matches between the two clubs, United are undefeated winning at Old Trafford in the Premier League last season, a 2-0 scoreline with a brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In the EFL Cup final at Wembley, the second match between the two clubs last season, United won 3-2, again a brace from Ibrahimovic with Jesse Lingard scoring also. At St Mary’s in the penultimate match of the season, it was a 0-0 draw with United getting ready for the UEFA Europa League final a week later. United have had many unbeaten runs over the Saints, the last one totaling eleven matches, running from a 3-2 victory on the 31st January 2004 to a 2-1 victory on the 8th December 2014.

Preview: The Saints to put up a fight with Manchester United reigning supreme at St Mary’s

Southampton -v- Manchester United

Premier League 2017/18

St Mary’s, Southampton

Saturday 23rd September 2017; KO 15:00 BST

Not shown live in the United Kingdom

Manchester United travel down to the South Coast of England for their first 15:00 BST kick off in the Premier League against Southampton at St Mary’s. United have started their league campaign on good stead this season, beating West Ham United (4-0), Swansea City (4-0), Leicester City (2-0), drawing with Stoke City (2-2) and beating Everton (4-0) last weekend. In the UEFA Champions League, United beat FC Basel (3-0) last week also winning in the third round fo the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night at Old Trafford, seeing off Championship side Burton Albion (4-1), conceding the first goal at Old Trafford this season. United will be looking to keep their Premier League season in good stead, seeking a victory away to Southampton, keeping in with a shout of staying at the top of the league, matching Manchester City with results, points and goals scored. Jose Mourinho’s side have had a great start this season.

Southampton changed their manager recently, meaning it will not be the same side the club beat at Old Trafford and at Wembley last season, drawing in this fixture. United are a much better team though and are less reliant on a particular player with goals coming from across the pitch this season, the most coming from the attacking players, rather than their striker, which was what last season was about. This weekend, United could see their place at risk if they do not match Manchester City’s result, with the clubs bitter cross-city rivals facing strugglers Crystal Palace at home. Chelsea, currently in third and three points behind United and City could gain some ground with a victory at Stoke this weekend. If City and United win, they will remain the top two sides this weekend.

Previous Matches: Manchester United the dominant team heading into Saturday’s clash with the Saints

Manchester United and Southampton have played 121 matches in all competitions since the first fixture between the two sides, played on the 13th February 1897 – a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup with a 3-1 victory to Newton Heath four days later. United have won 68 times, drawing 30 and losing just 28, which will see Southampton as the side with all to achieve against United, who are starting to show their strength in the Premier League and beyond this season. In the last three matches between the two clubs, United are undefeated winning at Old Trafford in the Premier League last season, a 2-0 scoreline with a brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In the EFL Cup final at Wembley, the second match between the two clubs last season, United won 3-2, again a brace from Ibrahimovic with Jesse Lingard scoring also. At St Mary’s in the penultimate match of the season, it was a 0-0 draw with United getting ready for the UEFA Europa League final a week later. United have had many unbeaten runs over the Saints, the last one totaling eleven matches, running from a 3-2 victory on the 31st January 2004 to a 2-1 victory on the 8th December 2014.

Form: Mourinho’s side have had a much better start to the season then Pellegrino’s men

Manchester United started their season well, beating West Ham United and Swansea City with 4-0 scorelines, then beating Leicester City 2-0 ahead of the international break. Stoke City was United’s test immediately after the break, suffering a 2-2 draw. United then faces FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League, winning 3-0 before facing Everton in the league, winning 4-0 again. United saw fixtures coming thick and fast in September with the Carabao Cup coming into play with United facing Championship club Burton Albion, winning 4-1 and conceding the first goal at Old Trafford this season. United will be looking to continue their unbeaten run this season with a trip to St Mary’s on the cards, a stadium United have been lucky at in the past.

Southampton have not had the best start to the new season. In their opening match, a 0-0 draw with Swansea City may have been seen as a good start which was then followed by a 3-2 victory over West Ham United, four points in the opening two matches of the season. The Saints then lost 2-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Carabao Cup before drawing 0-0 with Premier League new boys Huddersfield Town ahead of the international break. After the break, the Saints were the subject of a 2-0 defeat to Watford, then a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Next up Manchester United, a tough time to face Jose Mourinho’s side.

Team News: Manchester United in good strength despite injuries

Jose Mourinho will be without Paul Pogba, Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Southampton, which is not as big a blow as it could have been. Luke Shaw and Ashley Young, the club’s other two long-term injury concerns are both back in action, Shaw making his first team comeback against Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup victory on Wednesday evening, but may not be involved against his former club, unless Mourinho sees him as a starter, which could actually happen. Romelu Lukaku was rested, albeit on the bench, this week, so could return to face Southampton, a team he scored an 89th-minute goal against at Goodison Park last season. David De Gea, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic were all rested from Wednesday’s squad, coming in fresh this weekend.

Predicted Starting XI: Mourinho’s Premier League side could be put to the test of keeping up their form in the league against the Saints

Match Prediction: United to dominate the Saints and pressure them to put three points in the bag, again

Southampton 1-3 Manchester United

Opposition Scouting: Southampton profiled ahead of crunch Premier League clash with Manchester United

At first glance, eight points from the first five games looked alright for Saints but when you drill a bit deeper and look at the fixtures we’ve had, you can’t help but feel we’ve left a few points behind.  Home games against Swansea and Watford only brought one point and two very average performances and four points on the road against Huddersfield and a Hodgson-uninspired Palace. We had the bonus of an additional home game against West Ham because of a fixture switch due to the athletics happening at their rented ground and we managed to win that with a last minute penalty, despite our best efforts to throw it away against 10 men.

Whilst the whole world was focussed on Liverpool’s underhand attempts to sign Virgil van Dijk, we got on with the summer transfer and plugged a couple of gaps in the squad and for once, didn’t lose any players that we didn’t want to lose, despite the media’s best efforts to sell Cedric Soares, Ryan Bertrand, Oriol Romeu and van Dijk for us. The incoming Wesley Hoedt gives us the height in defence that we’ve lacked since Virgil got injured (see EFL Cup Final vs United for an example of us struggling in this area) and he looks very confident on the ball. Mario Lemina gives us a strong presence in midfield to compliment Oriol Romeu and he got rave reviews from the Palace game which he completely bossed. Very predictably, every pundit around was touting him for a ‘top four’ club on the basis of one game. We are very tired and bored of all that.

In every transfer window we always seem to leave one issue outstanding and this time it’s up front. In my opinion, Southampton have a good goalkeeper, fullbacks, centre backs and defensive midfield that’s as good as most but the creativity and finishing is lacking – hence our somewhat pathetic goal return. It’s not rocket science – we sold Graziano Pellé and Sadio Mané in the same transfer window and didn’t adequately replace them. We don’t have enough goals in the team and players in the attacking midfield positions (Redmond, Tadic, Boufal, Davis, Ward-Prowse) who you would want to be contributing eight to ten goals a season, will more than likely get about three each.

Claude Puel never got to grips with that last season and eventually paid for it with losing his job. On the face of it, finishing eighth and getting to the aforementioned EFL Cup Final seems like a decent season for us but the football, especially at home was dire and I can’t imagine many will miss him. A small burst of goals by Charlie Austin at the start of the season and a similar burst in the middle by Manolo Gabbiadini was all that separated the Saints from the real strugglers. The new manager Mauricio Pellegrino seems to have made Southampton attack-minded and we’ve shown flashes this season but it’s going to take a while.

By strengthening the back of the team, it’s hoped that the solid foundation will free the shackles further forward a little bit. So far this season, it’s been a case of one step forward followed by one back. We played well (most of the game) against West Ham, then average at Huddersfield and then we were absolutely pathetic against Watford before sorting it out against Palace. A win against United would certainly get everyone onside with what the new manager is doing.

The Manager

After the dull style of play under Claude Puel and post-match interviews that had you switching off after 30 seconds, the arrival of Mauricio Pellegrino has been the proverbial breath of fresh air.  He dealt with all the van Dijk shambles in a strong manner and seems a very focussed and intense individual. He has a reputation for tactical flexibility from his time in Spain but he’s not trying to change too much too soon. He did try a 3-4-3 formation in the League Cup at home to Wolves but a combination of lack of preparation time and reserve players meant that it was a disaster as we pathetically limped out 2-0.

I think most fans would settle for Pellegrino masterminding a similar-placed finish to last year in the league but there has to be some more entertainment and goals, especially in home games.  At times we have looked to press high at home with mixed results but at the time of writing, we don’t appear to have committed to one style or another. Our away form has held up pretty well since Koeman jumped ship but the goals have certainly dried up at home. Under Koeman and Pochettino before him, we regularly got points against the big boys (as you know J) but last year we mostly just rocked up with a Plan A of defending deep and a Plan B of doing nothing different when we went behind. Of course, you can’t go gung-ho against the likes of United but you at least have to give them something to think about defensively. We actually got the balance right in the EFL Cup Final but on that day, our defending cost us.

Ones to Watch

The Oriol Romeu – Mario Lemina axis in midfield will be key. If the two of them can get a grip in there and not allow United to boss possession then we’ll have a decent chance. Steven Davis is also one to watch because he knits everything together and whilst you’re watching him, hopefully, others will find space and do damage.

If you’re talking about forward going players then Nathan Redmond is the closest we have to an exciting player but at the moment his final ball or shot is often wildly inaccurate. Shane Long will be key in this game as centre-backs hate playing against him with his pace and tenacity. He’s as inconsistent as you like though, unplayable at his best but he tackles himself at his worst.

Manolo Gabbiadini is a great finisher and makes intelligent runs but too often this season we’ve been unable to get enough service to him so he’s likely to be a sub, having been dropped for the Palace game. Sofiane Boufal, who will be a substitute at best, is a player with unbelievable skill levels but seemingly no idea of how to get any practical use out of it.

Predicted Starting XI

However – I feel that Pellegrino is building up to playing with three centre-backs so if he decides that Virgil van Dijk is fit enough to start then I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something like:

Match Prediction

I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll get something out of the game. If Lemina and Romeu can win the midfield against Matic and Herrera or whoever and we can get at United’s defence then it could be a very good day. I don’t see us getting blown away like Everton were at United in the last few minutes last week. The opening goal will be key. Realistic Prediction – If we go ahead then I’ll say 1-1 but if United take the lead then it’ll be a 2-0 win for United and our poor record against United at St. Mary’s will continue.

Written by Glen de la Cour

copyright: JW