Manchester United travel to Southampton this weekend with more questions about their season than answers. It was a great victory over Liverpool, but it came in a big game. The pressure will be to deliver the same level of commitment and quality against one of the weaker sides in the Premier League. For Saints, they will be confident after two wins in the last seven days. It is an opportunity for them to record a statement victory early in the season and they will take a lot of positives from United’s two early defeats this season. As a pressing outfit, there are a lot of similarities between Brighton, Brentford and Southampton.
Erik ten Hag had a worrying start in the job. There were concerns that he was going to have a similar fate to Frank de Boer, the last Ajax manager to move to the Premier League. However, he rang the changes and made some big selection calls on Monday night. These were rewarded with a much better performance and a huge victory over Liverpool. If they had suffered defeat, his decisions would have been called into question. This underlines the character he possesses and suggests he is the right man to turn the club around. That said, failure to win on Saturday would make last week’s result matter less.
Like ten Hag, Ralph Hasenhuttl has faced criticism at the beginning of the season. Some wondered if his time as Southampton manager was coming to an end, but the club have had an excellent last week. They managed to come from behind to beat Leicester and ease through in the Carabao Cup. Their intense pressing has caused Manchester United problems in previous years and their Austrian head coach will hope it can have similar success on Saturday. The visitors have shown a vulnerability to being pressed in their early matches. Saints should have confidence in their natural game this weekend.
Southampton have conceded 98 times against Manchester United in the Premier League. No team has scored more against them.
Since Southampton returned to the Premier League ten years ago, Manchester United haven’t lost at St Mary’s Stadium. Their last defeat there came in 2003.
After starting the season out of the team and getting linked with a move away, it has been an excellent week for Che Adams. He has scored all four of Southampton’s goals in the last week and looks to have made himself indispensable. It has been a mixed time for Adams on the South Coast, as it took him time to get going. The departure of Danny Ings left a hole in the Southampton attack. Although he didn’t step up immediately, the Scottish international now looks ready to be the leader of the attack at St Mary’s. The likes of Adam Armstrong and Sekou Mara will be supporting him, but Adams looks to have the most goal threat. Since moving to the club, the forward has never reached double figures in a single season. His best goal return came in 2020/21 when he scored nine times. Adams will be keen to finally reach that landmark and his quick start should give him confidence that he can. Despite Manchester United’s win last weekend, there are still concerns about their defence. There should be chances for Southampton’s forward line this weekend.
It has been a frustrating 12 months for Marcus Rashford following the Euro 2020 final. He has had injuries and he hasn’t been able to find the goal-scoring form that he had during his early career. Some feared he would have to leave Manchester United to get back to his best. On Monday, he delivered his best performance for a long time and was rewarded with a goal. Other high profile players have been benched by ten Hag, but Rashford looks to be favoured at the time of writing. His ability to press and run in behind opposition defences means he suits the system well. Sometimes it is forgotten that Rashford is still only 24. He has time on his side and looks to be playing under the right coach to get him back to his free-flowing best. The England international had five shots and completed three dribbles on Monday. His pass success rate of 38% was a concern, however, that speaks of the risks United were taking. With the World Cup just months away, Rashford could be set to play his way back into Gareth Southgate’s plans.
Romain Perraud is facing a battle to be passed fit, but the recent performances of Moussa Djenepo mean that the Frenchman won’t be rushed back. Valentino Livramento won’t be back until after the World Cup.
Victor Lindelof is the main absentee for Manchester United. Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo are unlikely to start for the second week in a row.
It is difficult to predict a win for Manchester United at the moment, despite their victory against Liverpool. There needs to be more performances like that one before we can fully buy into ten Hag. Southampton have a pressing style that can unsettle Manchester United like Brentford and Brighton did. It would be expected that United don’t play out from the back to try to limit this. They should have enough attacking quality and confidence to win on Saturday, but it could easily be another poor day for United.
Southampton 1-2 Manchester United