Southampton vs Manchester United
Venue: St Mary’s
Referee: Craig Pawson
Manchester United travel to the south coast and to St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday afternoon looking to pick up from where they left off on the opening weekend. United were in scintillating form in a 5-1 victory against rivals Leeds United. Southampton had to endure a contrast in fortunes on the opening day as they went down 3-1 at Everton.
The Red Devils were inspired by hat-trick hero Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba last weekend. The latter picked up four assists in a superb display of passing that exemplified everything that is great about the Frenchman. Fred and Mason Greenwood also got their names on the scoresheet on a day that could not have gone any better for the United faithful. Jadon Sancho came off the bench for his much-anticipated debut and Raphael Varane was unveiled to the Old Trafford crowd at halftime. Following strong showings in all competitions last campaign, but no silverware to show for it, surely this is the year for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to win his first trophy as manager of this famous old club.
Ralph Hasenhuttl and his Southampton side have struggled hugely of late. Despite starting last season well, their form in 2021 plummeted and the Saints found themselves hovering near the drop zone. The departures of Danny Ings and Jannik Vestergaard, two of their star players, will only dampen the mood further. New signing Adam Armstrong did score on his debut last week at Goodison Park, but the way the Saints downed tools in the second half, conceding three goals in the process, will be a cause for huge concern for Hasenhuttl.
The Austrian will still be having nightmares about the last time his side faced off against Manchester United. It equalled the Premier League record for the biggest losing margin as his side were obliterated by 9 (nine) goals to nil at Old Trafford. While a repeat of the same scoreline is unlikely to happen, Southampton will need to be at their best if they are to take any points from this United side who are brimming with confidence.
The hosts have a relatively clean bill of health, although William Smallbone and Sam McQueen will be missing through injury. After Armstrong scored last weekend, it looks likely he will be chosen to lead the line again. His namesake, Stuart, is also set to feature in midfield alongside captain James Ward-Prowse, whose contract renewal this week will have done something to soften the blow of last week’s demise.
For the visitors, Marcus Rashford, Alex Telles and Dean Henderson will continue their recoveries from injury and will be missing once again. However, the United fans will be buoyed by the potential return to the squad of Jesse Lingard for the first time since his excellent loan spell at West Ham last term. Edison Cavani could also feature after being given an extended break by the club to recover from his Copa America exploits. While Varane is likely to travel down to the south coast, it is unlikely that Solskjaer will break up the partnership of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire this early into the season. Jadon Sancho could make his full debut for the club in place of Daniel James.
Predicted Starting XIs
Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Salisu, Bednarek, Perraud; S. Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Djenepo; A. Armstrong, Adams
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Sancho, Fernandes, Pogba; Greenwood
Score Prediction: Southampton 1-3 Manchester United
I expect United to run out comfortable winners and continue their strong start to the campaign. While the Saints can certainly threaten, with Ward-Prowse’s set pieces and the duo of Armstrong and Adams up top, the visitors should have too much. Solskjaer’s side are high in confidence, and unless the hosts are at the top of the game, they should leave the south coast with all three points.