This weeks ‘Super Sunday’ see’s Manchester United head to St Mary’s where they will face a Southampton team who are in search of their second league win of the season.
So far this season Southampton haven’t quite carried on last season’s impressive form. Koeman’s men have won only one of their Premier League games this season (W1/D3/L1), and there has been a clear lack of decisiveness in front of goal. The loss of key players like Alderweireld, Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderin has had an apparent impact on the team, and it has been hard for new players to come in and replicate the form of these players. However, it must not be forgotten that last season ‘The Saints’ had statically the second best defence in the league with only League leaders Chelsea bettering this stat. Southampton’s strong defence will be key in combatting Manchester United’s weak attack, and could vital in helping them achieve a result.
Manchester United head into the game having suffered a 2-1 loss to PSV in the Champions League. Everything that could go wrong more or less went wrong for United, with Luke Shaw’s horrific injury and ‘the Red’s’ again failing to create any real, clear cut chances. However, Van Gaal’s men are going into this fixture with a 3-1 victory over arch-rivals Liverpool on their back, and improvements to this performance could help Manchester United push on from their steady start to the campaign.
Southampton will be without Fraser Forster (Knee), Ryan Bertrand (Knee), Jordie Clasie (Ankle/Foot) and Florin Gardos (Knee), whilst Saido Mane is expected to make a return to the team after missing last week’s 0-0 draw with West Brom.
Wayne Rooney is expected to make the trip to St Mary’s, whilst Luke Shaw (broken leg) will be out for most the season. Phil Jones has overcome his illness, however lacks match fitness.
So far this season Van Gaal hasn’t shown any desire to change from a 4-2-3-1 formation, and so with this said I expect nothing to change. In goal De Gea will continue in nets, despite the best efforts of Romero, there is no doubt that De Gea should be Manchester United’s No.1 despite continued speculation over a Real Madrid move throughout the summer.
With Luke Shaw facing a long time out on the side-lines Van Gaal will be forced to make changes to his back four for the first time this season. I expect Darmian and Smalling to continue on the right-hand side of defence, with both players having impressive starts to the season. The real problem Louis Van Gaal faces is the left hand side of defence. Who will start at left-back? Both Rojo and Blind have played at left-back for Manchester United as well as their home country, whilst Ashley Young has shown that he can play as a wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation. With these factors considered, I feel that Van Gaal will start Daley Blind at Left-back, a player who he has played in a similar position during his reign as Holland Manager. The manager also moved the Dutch player to left-back following Luke Shaw’s injury, and Rojo came in to replace him at CB. Therefore, I expect Rojo to partner Chris Smalling at centre back.
In the base of midfield I expect both Carrick and Schneiderlin to make appearances. Both players play in similar roles, however each of them have contrasting abilities. For me Schneiderlin acts as a midfield terrier, hassling opponents, winning the ball back and distributing the ball quickly but efficiently to the more creative players. Carrick on the other hands acts as a midfield anchor, sitting in front of the defence offering defensive cover but also acting as a route out of the defence. Carrick’s ability to spot danger and intercept the opponent’s forward passes are also vital for Louis Van Gaal’s defensive system. The Englishman also has the ability to play important forward passes, and switch the play from one side of the pitch to the other. No matter who starts in midfield for Manchester United, they will have a battle on their hands.
In terms of the four attacking players, I expect both Depay and Mata to start on the wings. Depay hasn’t quite found his form in the Premier League this season, but Van Gaal will know that his performances can only improve with game time. I would like to see Wayne Rooney play in the ‘Number 10’ role. So far this season Wayne Rooney has struggled to play as a lone striker with his back to goal, and so by playing behind the striker Rooney will be given opportunities to run at goal, as well as play off the ‘Number 9’. At striker I would like to see Anthony Martial continue on from his impressive Premier League debut. Against both Liverpool and PSV Martial has shown a willingness to run at defenders, as well as showing a physical side to his game – something which could prove important if Wayne Rooney is to start behind the striker.
I have to stay optimistic, and so I can see Manchester United coming away 2-1 victors. It won’t be easy for them though.