As 2017 draws to a close, the Red Devils will be all set to welcome Pellegrino’s Southampton in its final Premier League encounter of the calendar year.
From the outside, United have had a pretty successful 2017 – winning two trophies, qualifying for the Champions League in the first half to reaching the knock-outs and placed second in the league, albeit 15 points from the summit, in the second half. There is no denying that Manchester United under Mourinho are heading in the right direction. But with City’s success from next door – too close for their liking – it has in a way rather unfortunately put their own relative improvement in results in the shade leaving Mourinho frustrated with the board for their lack of support in the transfer market.
All said and done, United do still possess a formidable home record – a run that came under big trouble in midweek and could be on the line again as they entertain a dangerous Southampton side who could hurt the home side on their day, as they have in the past under previous managers. Going into this fixture with a lacklustre form (11 points from the last 6), United need to finish the year as strong as possible at Old Trafford as they prepare for the remainder of a long campaign in 2018.
Marcos Rojo is available to face the South Coast side on Saturday while fellow center-half Chris Smalling, who has been on fine form lately is a doubt with the defender still nursing a groin problem he suffered at the King Power Stadium. It remains to be seen if Matteo Darmian and Anthony Martial are fit for selection, after both players were omitted from the 18-man squad that was named to face Burnley.
Right-back and regular captain Antonio Valencia is presumably still missing with the hamstring problem that he sustained in the recent victory over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.
Southampton remain without first-choice full-backs Cedric Soares (ankle) and Ryan Bertrand (thigh), plus striker Charlie Austin (hamstring and suspended).
- Manchester United have kept a clean sheet in each of their last three Premier League matches against Southampton, after a run of nine meetings without one.
- Southampton have won two of their last three league visits to Old Trafford, after a run of 19 matches without a win there (D3 L16).
- Man Utd have the chance to do the double over Southampton for the first time since 2012/13.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored four goals in his two appearances against Southampton in all competitions.
Jesse Lingard – Manchester United
From being nothing more than a peripheral figure in the last three seasons, Lingard has grown in stature and taken on a central role – both figuratively and literally under Mourinho, particularly in recent weeks to see Man United through games they are struggling in.
The Warrington-born academy graduate has been sensational away from home in December – but the brace against Burnley in midweek taking his Premier League tally to six (best return) after a poor miss earlier in the week against Leicester is testament to his resilience that has seen him sustain a first team career at Manchester United under three different managers.
With the spirit and mood around the camp generally low at this moment, it is imperative that the local talent grab the torch and keep the fight alive which is why Lingard will once again prove crucial to the Red Devils getting a result on Saturday.
Soufiane Boufal – Southampton
Southampton this season have been lacking the cutting edge in the final third in addition to a surprising amount of disorganisation at the back that has seen them concede 30 goals already. The Saints have only picked up 6 points on the road and it is up to their best creative players to come up with something really special to turn the corner and Pellegrino should be counting on the wizardry that 24-year old Boufal is capable of producing.
With 2 goals in 1 assist in 8 starts, Boufal is one of the better forwards at Southampton and against a Manchester United side who have been far from their best at the back in the last few weeks, there is every chance that he could cause an upset in the weekend.
A nauseatingly boring game of football rivalling the reverse fixture – to end in a similar result.
Manchester United 1-0 Southampton.