The FourFourTwo Preview: Southampton vs Man United
No grey shirts, no relegation – just good, honest final-day fun.
This fixture will conjure both painful and joyous memories for fans of the two clubs, but there should be a more relaxed atmosphere at St Mary's this time around. Southampton became something of a bogey side for Manchester United in the mid-to-late 90s, beating Alex Ferguson's grey-shirted team 3-1 in 1995/96, then walloping them 6-3 the season after. United then clinched the title with a 3-1 win of their own in April 2000, before sending the Hampshire side down with a 2-1 win on the south coast on the final day of 2004/05.
- Swansea 0-1 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 2-0 Everton (Prem)
- Aston Villa 0-0 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 0-1 Cardiff (Prem)
- Man City 4-1 So'ton (Prem)
MAN UTD FORM
- Man Utd 3-1 Hull (Prem)
- Man Utd 0-1 S'land (Prem)
- Man Utd 4-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Everton 2-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- Bayern 3-1 Man Utd (CL)
Saints have yet to beat the Old Trafford outfit since returning to the Premier League at the start of last season, but this fixture is as good a chance as any. United don't seem particularly concerned about snatching the last Europa League spot from Tottenham (they would need to win and Spurs to lose at home to Aston Villa to do so), and as such look likely to rotate their squad again. This could see more youngsters follow Tom Lawrence and midweek goalscorer James Wilson in making an appearance for the first team.
The last day of the season is often a time for emotional goodbyes, but fans of the home team – who have seen many of their young stars linked with moves away – will be hoping that is restricted to the visitors this time around. Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic could potentially all be making their last appearances for the soon-to-be-former champions, with big changes afoot at Old Trafford.
Sky Sports may have chosen to broadcast the Spurs-Villa match, possibly in the hope of catching Tim Sherwood 'wig out' for one last time, but this fixture will surely be far more appealing to the neutral.
Southampton will be without defender Maya Yoshida (knee), midfielder Gaston Ramirez (ankle) and forward Jay Rodriguez (knee) for their final match of a successful campaign.
England defender Phil Jones is unlikely to be risked after injuring a shoulder against Hull, while Wayne Rooney is out with a groin injury.
Rafael is unlikely to return from the knock that has sidelined him since the 4-1 win over Aston Villa last month.
Player to watch: Adam Lallana (Southampton)
With Roy Hodgson's provisional World Cup squad set to be named on Monday, there will be a few players at St Mary's on Sunday with a point to prove. Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert (both Southampton), Michael Carrick and Chris Smalling (both United) are all far from certain to be 'on the plane' when England jet off for Brazil.
Lallana, barring a late injury that could only be described as 'heart-breaking' or 'f***ing annoying', will certainly be in the 30, but a good showing here wouldn't do his hopes of making the starting XI any harm.
In the previous meeting between the clubs, Lallana not only scored from the last of his 4 shots (3 of which were on target, the other blocked), but he also created 5 goalscoring chances for team-mates (3 from open play). A repeat showing might just be the final flourish that has Roy re-assessing his plans for Manaus on June 14.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- United 1-1 Saints (Prem, Oct 13)
- United 2-1 Saints (Prem, Jan 13)
- Saints 2-3 United (Prem, Sep 12)
- Saints 1-3 United (FAC, Jan 11)
- Saints 0-3 United (FAC, Jan 09)
You won't be surprised to learn that Sunday's match will be the first managerial meeting between Mauricio Pochettino and Ryan Giggs – but they also didn't face off competitively as players either. And quite when and where they'll next meet is anyone's guess. The smart money is on Louis van Gaal taking over at Old Trafford, with Giggs set to remain on the Dutchman's coaching staff. But with rumours that Giggs may also be about to announce his retirement from playing, could he be tempted to seek out a managerial post of his own elsewhere, now he's had a taste of life in the dugout?
Who knows, the Southampton job may even be available, with Tottenham rumoured to be interested in taking Pochettino to White Hart Lane. Whether that would actually be a good career move for the Argentine is an altogether different question, but it would certainly be in the best interests of everybody connected with the club for the issue to be resolved sooner rather than later.
Facts and figures
- There have been at least 4 goals in 7 of United’s last 12 trips to top-half teams.
- United have won by at least 2 clear goals in 7 of their away games this season.
- 6 of Saints' last 12 home games against top-half teams have had at least 4 goals.
- Both teams have scored in all 3 meetings between these teams since the start of last season.
An open game with goals at both ends. 2-2.