Manchester United have a fantastic chance to continue their excellent start to the season as they travel to Saint Mary’s to face a Southampton side still gelling under new boss Mauricio Pellegrino.
Jose Mourinho will want to see a clearer sense of discipline compared to what supporters saw during Man United’s last away game in the Premier League – a 2-2 draw away to Stoke City earlier this month.
At the same time, the watching world will look on keenly to see whether United’s attack – effervescent so far this season – can continue to fire against a Southampton back line that could include Virgil van Dijk for the first time since his transfer saga with Liverpool.
Here are three players Mourinho needs to start at Saint Mary’s to preserve their positive run in the Premier League.
The Serbian should be the first name on the team-sheet every week. He has been a seminal influence at the base of midfield ever since arriving in August, bullying opponents into submission with his sheer power and moving play forward with purpose.
His impact on United’s overall shape is invaluable: there is more balance and control to Mourinho’s team when he’s on the pitch, and that will be crucial as Mourinho’s men look to silence the home crowd early on.
The way in which Rashford nonchalantly dismissed Burton Albion in the week – almost with an air of disgust – served to remind supporters of just how talented this teenager really is, and how far he has come over the last year.
He has subtly but surely established himself as an indispensable aspect of Mourinho’s set-up, producing dedicated, penetrative displays on a weekly basis, and supporters will hope to see him test Cedric Soares on Saturday, with Anthony Martial coming on to push the knife in during the latter stages.
Talk of United’s scintillating attacking play this season has largely excluded Mata, such is the Spaniard’s less explosive style, but make no mistake: his presence is vital for giving others a platform to inflict damage.
He picks up the perfect positions and holds the ball for just long enough to pull defenders out of position, working in close conjunction with both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Antonio Valencia, before unleashing one of the latter pair with an inch-perfect threaded pass.
Mata’s roaming, crafty presence feels necessary if United are to avoid becoming too predictable at Saint Mary’s.