Manchester United – Southampton (Premier League)
This Saturday Southampton arrives at Old Trafford in 4th, looking down at the likes of City, Tottenham or their hosts, Manchester United. Not quiet business as usually, is it? On the other end, the Red Devils surely want to avoid the second straight Premier League loss at home. Something that does not happen since 2002, a season that ended up with Arsenal being crowned. Is history about to repeat itself?
Ferguson, the ghost of glories past, is looming at Old Trafford. Everyone expected a difficult transition but David Moyes squad’s performance is borderline scary. 9th place, 10 points in 7 games. The contenders they’ve faced so far were not all easy pics, grant them that, but still. If drawing to Chelsea or being defeated by Liverpool is acceptable, conceding 4 from City is not. And a title contender has no business loosing to West Brom. So far the only Premier League ranking they top is the one for yellow cards! Nevertheless, the quality is still there. No squad that has Robbie van Persie and Wayne Rooney is ever to be taken lightly. Prior to the international break United scored a win (1-2) at the Stadium of Light, against Sunderland, coming from behind. Could that be a turning point for Man U? Also, they have a long list of Internationals but frankly that can work both ways. A few of those players may be tired but good results – like England’s qualifying – can work as a major boost of confidence. Just what the Red Devils needed. Fletcher is injured, Tom Cleverly is doubtful due to calf strain. Van Persie as a toe injury but that should not rule him out. Rio Ferdinand is still a maybe. Adnan Januzaj, the 18 year old sensation, will hope to retain his place on the XI, after his inspiring game against Sunderland.
Probable lineup: De Gea – Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra – Fellaini, Carrick – Nani, Rooney, Januzaj, van Persie.
Southampton is in a three-game winning streak, four if we consider the Capital One Cup, one of them facing Liverpool at Anfield Road. 4th so far, with 14 points in 7 games, the same as Chelsea. In 9 matches this season they’ve managed to win 6, draw 2 and loose just one. The Saints have the best defence of the Premier League, only 2 goals conceded. By all accounts a very strong start. And for that two duos made a huge contribution. In the back-line José Fonte and Dejan Lovren. The pairing has proved so successful they have played every single minute for the Saints. The Portuguese’s skill is cutting out passes and the Croatian is a master at stopping dribbling attacks. In the defensive midfield Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin. The first does most of the dirty work, freeing the second to be more of a play-maker.
Everyone is available for Mauricio Pochettino’s choices. An hamstring injury ruled goalkeeper Artur Boruc out of the England-Poland game but according to the Saints Manager he will be ready to play.
Probable lineup: Boruc – Clyne, Lovren, Fonte, Shaw – Wanyama, Schneiderlin – Lallana, Davis, Lambert, Osvaldo.
Despite the success United has enjoyed over Southampton – in the last 14 Premier League matches 13 wins and 1 draw – the numbers don’t give the entire picture. Last season’s clashes were close, even Ferguson admitted his team “was lucky” then. The Saints are nothing if not consistent and every game they get better. On the opposite side, David Moyes keeps experimenting with the line-up and has used 24 different players, so far. When all is said and done, Manchester United are still a top squad but to beat Southampton at Old Traford they will have to shape up and walk the extra mile.