This week we saw the third round of the League Cup being played in England and despite its new exotic brand name (Carabao Cup) many Premier League Managers continue to dislike it. Even after his side won against Burton Albion on Wednesday, Jose Mourinho was found complaining about the competition. He said, “If you ask me ‘could English football survive or be even be better without this competition?’ Maybe. Maybe we would be fresher for European competition.” Well, the third round of the Carabao Cup has been played and the focus returns to the league action on the weekend. On Saturday, Mourinho’s Manchester United visit Southampton, who had cunningly – as Jose might believe it – had already exited from the Cup in the second round.
For Pellegrino at Southampton, the second-round exit to Wolves at home must rankle more for the scoreline (0-2) than the exit itself. That score line and three others during this nascent campaign have been goal-less for the Saints. At home, Southampton have not scored a goal against Swansea, Wolves, and Watford. This lack of goals is what caused Claude Puel’s downfall and Pellegrino will need his players to fire sooner than later, if he is not to suffer the same fate.
For all of Jose Mourinho’s mind games about the Carabao Cup, he does not have too many things worrying him at present. In the league, Manchester United are level (and top) with Manchester City with identical points and goal difference values. In Europe, he has a relatively easy group to negotiate and in the League Cup, his side swatted aside Burton Albion 4-1 without too much exertion. In the process, his side has scored 23 goals in all competitions and have had only three scored against them. So, Mourinho need not worry about his side’s freshness. They are currently very dominant on the field and their manager would want them to carry this dominance to St. Mary’s as well.
- Southampton have lost 24 Premier League matches against Manchester United, the most against any opponents.
- The Saints have scored in only two games out of six in all competition this season. They have scored four goals in all, three against West Ham and one in last Saturday’s game at Crystal Palace.
- Manchester United are undefeated on their last nine visits to St Mary’s Stadium in all competitions.
- United are unbeaten in their last six matches at Saint Mary’s but only three of those have been wins, decided by a one-goal margin.
For a side as starved for goals as Southampton, the most important man on Saturday is going to be the one who is in a goal scoring form. In that aspect, Steven Davis is in great form – at least in comparison with his team mates. He scored the winner at Selhurst Park last week, prior to which he had scored for Northern Ireland in the World Cup qualifier against San Marino. His xG of 0.64 so far this season is not at all spectacular, nor is his expected assist number of 0.75 but Davis brings a good passing ability and strength in set pieces. Now that he has started scoring for the Saints, Pellegrino’s expectations are likely to be high.
Even when he is not chasing any records, Romelu Lukaku is a goal threat. But on Saturday, he is chasing a record of scoring six goals in the first six games of a league campaign. With his record against the lower teams, and with this additional incentive of matching Louis Saha’s record, it is almost certain that he will get on the scoresheet. His expected goals per 90 minutes of 1.1 confirms as much. Jose Mourinho will look to Lukaku to provide an edge against what is likely to be a stout defense from Southampton.
Virgil van Dijk could get his first start of the season, following a brief appearance against Crystal Palace last Saturday. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg comes back into the squad after the birth of his child, while Charlie Austin could also make a return to the bench.
Mourinho might be tempted to rest Marcus Rashford after it seemed that the forward picked up a knock after winning the game against Burton Albion on Wednesday. This could give Anthony Martial a start in the league. Lukaku, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan, Valencia, David de Gea, Eric Bailly, and Matic were all rested during the midweek game and will all start against Southampton. There is also a possibility that Luke Shaw could make the bench against his former side.
Not too many seasons back, this would have been a tough fixture for Manchester United. But this season, it should be a straightforward win for Jose’s team. Southampton are struggling to score and the Red Devils cannot stop scoring. Add to the mix United’s solid defense and the chances of Saints getting anywhere near United’s goal seem remote. These should be an easy-to-pocket three points for Manchester United.
Southampton 0 – 3 Manchester United