The Premier League returns after the international break with Manchester United taking on fourth placed Southampton at Old Trafford tomorrow.
United’s sluggish start to the season has been well documented but a brace from Adnan Januzaj two weeks ago against Sunderland provided a cause for optimism and gave fans a real boost going in to the international break – something which has continued with Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie enjoying fruitful spells away with England and Holland, respectively.
Southampton take the long trip up North after a fabulous start to their second consecutive Premier League campaign under their belts and they are currently in fourth place with 14 points from the opening seven fixtures, conceding just two goals in the process.
United ran out winners in both fixtures last season but the results could have gone either way. A Robin van Persie hat-trick at Saint Mary’s decided a close contest which eventually finished 3-2 despite Southampton taking the lead twice. A very tense midweek encounter in the reverse fixture again saw the Saints take the lead once but on that occasion, a Rooney brace turned the tables in a match where United were outplayed for a lot of the game.
Mauricio Pocchetino has impressed since taking the managerial reigns in January and has been boosted ahead of the game with goalkeeper Artur Boruc looking fit to play at Old Trafford. Teenage left-back Luke Shaw, who has been linked with a move to United, could miss out and Danny Fox may deputise.
For David Moyes’ boys, there are question marks over Rafael Da Silva, Tom Cleverley and Rio Ferdinand who are all suffering slight knocks and may be rested with United in action again in midweek. Shinji Kagawa and Javier Hernandez, both back from the usual globe-trotting international jaunts, may be on the bench given how much travelling they have done.
Moyes has offered yet more backing to Rooney in his pre-match press conference and with the 27-year-old striker in dazzling form, one would imagine he’s a certain starter. Januzaj, the match winner at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago, could also be set for his first start at Old Trafford.
United haven’t lost to the Saints in all competitions since 2003 but the South Coast side are a vastly improved outfit and the addition of Croatian centre-back Dejan Lovren from Lyon has proved to be a shrewd acquisition, something that has coincided with resolute defensive displays over the past two months.
The game will provide a stern test for Moyes and co but it is fixtures like this where victories must be obtained regardless of the quality of performance. United lie six points off of the pace after just seven games and we really cannot afford to let the gap widen if we are to stay in touch for the Premier League title.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Southampton
What do you think the score will be against Southampton?