Manchester United have had a disappointing few weeks. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Middlesbrough and then dropped points to bottom of the league, Burnley. Ralf Rangnick will be confident that he can lead the club to a top four finish, but he needs to start winning matches. This weekend, they host Southampton, who are led by Ralph Hasenhuttl, who worked under Rangnick at RB Leipzig. Emotions will be put to one side, with both coaches wanting to get the three points.
It has been a strange season for Manchester United. The summer was filled with hope, after three big signings were made to improve the starting eleven. However, they have failed to find the right combination of players on the pitch and they have played like a group of individuals. Both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Rangnick have struggled to manage the egos in the squad. The individual ability is there, but they have played below their potential.
For Southampton, they are coming into this weekend after an excellent win away to Tottenham. They will be hoping to beat another of the top six this weekend and continue their upward momentum under Hasenhuttl. Saints have moved into the top ten this week and that would represent an excellent campaign for them. During the summer, they lost three first team players in Danny Ings, Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard, but they have managed to move on from that. They will be difficult to beat this weekend.
Paul Pogba made a scoring return to the team during the week. His last five Premier League goals have come away from home.
Since the beginning of the 2019/20 season, no player has scored more own goals in the Premier League than Jan Bednarek. His own goal against Tottenham was his third during that time.
There has been a steady improvement from Bruno Fernandes in recent weeks, as he seems to be finding his best form once again. Prior to the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, he was the undoubted star of the team. Solskjaer built the team around him and he was given the license to play as he saw fit. The arrival of Ronaldo has negatively impacted him, but Rangnick now seems to be trying to place Fernandes in a pivotal role again. During the last five matches across all competitions, he has recorded two goals and three assists. He is getting into advanced positions more often and he has been encouraged to make runs beyond the forward line. When he makes these runs, he is very dangerous and Southampton’s defensive structure should suit him. They are braver than other teams and won’t be afraid to leave gaps in their own half. If Fernandes maintains his good form, he should have an excellent afternoon.
It has been an excellent loan spell to date, as Armando Broja seems to have the world at his feet. He is approaching the summer with high stock and there will be several options available to him. Southampton will be keen to keep him and the relationship he has with the club already should give them an advantage. However, he has the potential to play at an even higher level and there could be other clubs that try to sign him from Chelsea. There is also a chance that Thomas Tuchel integrates him into the squad at Stamford Bridge, to provide competition for Romelu Lukaku. He scored during the week, taking him to six goals for the Premier League season. Broja averages a goal every 176.2 minutes in the league. It is matches like this that will prove his credentials to Chelsea. If he manages to score away against Tottenham and Manchester United in the same week, it will boost his reputation considerably. His movement means he will be a threat on Saturday.
Fred and Alex Telles are both doubts as they recover from Covid-19. Eric Bailly could be back in contention after injury. Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to return to the starting eleven.
Nathan Redmond is a doubt with a foot injury. Alex McCarthy and Lyanco remain on the sidelines. Nathan Tella is a couple of weeks away from a return.
It has been a frustrating few weeks for Manchester United. They have three Premier League matches coming up over the next week. It provides a great opportunity for the club to take charge of the race to finish in the top four. After Southampton, they face Brighton and Leeds. This is before their return to Champions League action. All three are winnable matches and Rangnick will understand the importance of picking up wins. Although Southampton were good in the week, it will be difficult to maintain those levels just days later. The extra day of recovery for Manchester United could be enough to earn them the three points.
Manchester United 2-1 Southampton