It will be Devils against Saints, when United entertain Southampton this Sunday. One could argue that the nicknames have even transpired into the two clubs transfer policies – with United spending heavily on world class players, while Southampton brought cheap European talent.
Only a point separates the two teams as the race for Champions League berths continue. While still early days, this could prove to be an ideal opportunity for United to consolidate their third spot in the standings. Unbeaten in the last 11 games, confidence is high within the team; More so The Devils are with the second best home record in the League. Only leaders Chelsea and Swansea have stolen points from Old Trafford in nine games. I see no reason for United not continue their home excellence.
Saints on other hand are again flying high. After poor late November and early December, many dismissed them for Top 4 finish. But after 4 games unbeaten run, including wins against Everton and Arsenal and draw with Chelsea, Koeman has again set his sights onto steering his team into the Champions League spots. However in order to continue the recent performances his side has to overcome history as United haven’t lost to Southampton in the last 22 games (Last Southampton win 16 January 1988). Losses to Liverpool and Tottenham also show that this Southampton side is not as confident away from St Mary’s.
Louis Van Gaal is happy. During press conference he stated that this will be the first time he will be able to select from the full squad, excluding Ashley Young (torn hamstring 4-6 weeks). Shaw, Blind, Rojo and Rafael were passed fit and will be available, meaning this may be the first time Luke Shaw faces his former club since arriving in the Summer.
Maroune Feillani is also back and is expected to be on the bench, alongside the new signing – Victor Valdes.
The physio room is a bit fuller for Southampton as Saido Mane and Jay Rodriguez will certainly miss due to injuries, while Emmanuel Mayuka and Maya Yoshida are away for duties with their national sides (Africa CN and Asia Cup respectively). Nathaniel Clyne and Jack Cork have been passed fit and are expected to feature in the game.
New signing from Werder Bremen, Eljero Elia is also expected to feature in the game.
Manchester United (4-4-2 diamond): DDG-Rafael-Smalling-Jones-Shaw-Carrick-Herrera-Di Maria-Mata- Rooney-Robin Van Persie
Southampton FC (4-2-3-1): Foster-Clyne-Fonte-Alderweireld-Bertrand-Schneiderlin-Wanyama-Davis-Tadic-Long-Pelle
Last Meeting: Southampton 1-2 Manchester United
The last time the two sides met was December 8th 2014 when two goals by Robin Van Persie oversaw Graziano Pelle’s equaliser and gave Manchester United the win. The game saw a clinical United escaping with the three points showing that sometimes quality of possession is more important than quantity.
Score Prediction: Manchester United 3:2 Southampton
Southampton have the best defensive record in the League with only 15 goals allowed, but with United’s fearsome forward line there should be goals in this one. However Saint’s regained confidence should make this one a tight affair, hopefully ending in a home win.