The last day of the season is always exciting, but these two teams have little to play for. The home side have had a better season than Manchester United, despite finishing below last season’s champions. It’s clear that Mauricio Pochettino has improved Southampton a lot since his appointment as manager, but his future remains unclear as he is continually linked to other jobs, which is unsurprising given Nicola Cortese left the club earlier in the season. The away side will certainly enter next season with a new manager, after David Moyes was dismissed last month, with Louis van Gaal set to take over.
Southampton have had a fabulous season as they are set to finish in 8th place, reaching their biggest points total in the process, making them the ‘best of the rest’, they will be keen to push on next season targeting European football. However, to do so, they need to keep their key players to push on and there are rumours that the likes of Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana could be on the move this summer. The big success for Southampton this season has been the emergence of their English stars on the international stage as Shaw, Lallana and Rickie Lambert are all set to be on the plane to Brazil, which shows that playing at Southampton is a good environment for young players.
Manchester United have had a record breaking season, for all the wrong reasons. They are set for their lowest finish in the Premier League era and their lowest points tally. They are currently in 7th and they have a chance of overtaking Tottenham, but it would require the North Londoners to draw. Ryan Giggs has been given a chance to see what management is about, but he hasn’t been considered ready for the job full-time yet. Their 3-1 win over Hull in midweek was a nice occasion for Manchester United fans as they saw Giggs make what will probably be his last appearance at Old Trafford, while youngster James Wilson grabbed two goals.
The two sides’ last meeting ended in a 1-1 draw with Robin van Persie scoring for Manchester United, before Adam Lallana equalised for Southampton. The corresponding fixture last season saw the away side triumph 3-2. Rickie Lambert and Morgan Schneiderlin scored for the Saints, but a Robin van Persie hat-trick gave Manchester United the points.
Only two sides have drawn more matches than Southampton this season (10) and they are Stoke (11) and West Brom (15). This shows that Southampton are tough to beat. In fact they have lost only 12, which is the same number of defeats as Manchester United.
This is the first season that Manchester United have failed to win at least 11 of their home games, showing their decline and the effect Sir Alex Ferguson had, especially at home. That needs to be addressed next season as they can’t afford another season outside of the top four.
Adam Lallana has became one of the best creative midfielders this season, earning a place in the PFA Team of the Year, which is a huge achievement for a player in the top flight. He has scored nine goals this season and accrued six assists. His form should be good enough to see him start in Brazil for England, a place in the squad is all but a formality. The attacking midfielder will be exciting to watch in the summer as he likes to run with the ball and he has the skill to really make an impact on the World stage. His creativity is highlighted by the chances he’s created, which currently stands at 69. This equates to a chance created every 44 minutes. He will be keen to end the season well against Manchester United and his ability in the final third will cause problems for the away side, who have looked vulnerable at the back this season.
It’s been a poor season compared to the high standards that the striker set him self in recent years, but he has still managed to score twelve goals, which would be considered a success for a lot of other players in the top flight. There were a lot of rumours that he had fallen out with David Moyes and it can’t be ignored that his injury problems have recovered after Moyes’ exit. If Louis Van Gaal comes in as expected, it may be a move from the club to ensure that Van Persie plays a bigger part next year as his goals were sorely missed this campaign. He will want to finish the season well and score a few goals this weekend to gain match practice ahead of the World Cup. The Dutchman has scored four goals against Southampton, since the South Coast outfit returned to the Premier League last season, which will give him confidence going into Sunday’s match.
Southampton have a few injury worries going into the final game. Jay Rodriguez will be missing and could be injured for the start of next season, which is a huge disappointment, given he may have made the England squad this summer. Gaston Ramirez has an ankle niggle and may miss out with a view to the World Cup. Maya Yoshida and Kelvin Davis are also set to miss this weekend’s match.
Phil Jones will be missing this weekend after being injured in midweek and he is doubtful for the World Cup. Wayne Rooney and Rafael could be back for the final game, but Giggs may avoid playing the former ahead of the summer. Meanwhile, Giggs may opt to play himself in his final appearance for Manchester United, while youngsters may get another chance to show their worth. Jonny Evans will also miss out.
This match is set to be a classic end-of-season match and I expect to see a flurry of goals at both ends. Both sides have a lot of attacking talent and it could be an entertaining spectacle ahead of the World Cup, with a lot of internationals set to play at St Mary’s Stadium. I think it will be a high scoring draw.
Southampton 3-3 Manchester United