The FourFourTwo Preview: Man United vs Southampton
Louis vs Ronald. Round 2.
MAN UNITED FORM
- Yeovil 0-2 Man Utd (FAC)
- Stoke 1-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- Spurs 0-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- Man Utd 3-1 Newcastle (Prem)
- Villa 1-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- So’ton 1-1 Ipswich (FAC)
- So’ton 2-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- So’ton 1-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Palace 1-3 So’ton (Prem)
- So’ton 3-0 Everton (Prem)
Newsflash! There’s little love lost between Louis van Gaal and Ronald Koeman. Nevertheless, last month’s home defeat to Manchester United would have been particularly hard for the latter to take. Southampton fired in 15 attempts to the Red Devils’ 3, but were still beaten 2-1 with Robin van Persie’s brace taking his league record against the Saints to seven goals in seven.
“We did everything, we created chances. But we also did mistakes," lamented Koeman afterwards. " I said to my players, we lost not against Man United; we lost by ourselves.”
That Monday night disappointment was the third of five straight defeats, tempering Saints’ unexpectedly impressive start to the season after a summer of upheavel.
But the south coast club have done more than stop the rot ahead of Sunday’s rematch; heading to Old Trafford unbeaten in five outings including a draw against Chelsea and revenge win over Arsenal, who, like United, beat them in December.
Van Gaal’s men haven’t won away in the league since that success at St Mary’s, drawing at Aston Villa, Tottenham and Stoke, so will be glad to get back to Sir Matt Busby Way.
Long gone are last season’s woes when sides (West Brom, Everton, Newcastle, Sunderland) were rocking up at Old Trafford and ending decade-long droughts without a win. With eight victories and a draw from their last nine league outings on home soil, the fortress has been rebuilt.
Their record against Southampton will only fill them with more confidence. Although Adam Lallana’s late leveller pinched a point in this fixture last term, Saints haven’t won at Old Trafford since January 1988 (featuring Andy Townsend, Jimmy Case and Kevin Bond), losing 16 of the following 19 league meetings.
Left-back Luke Shaw will hope to feature against his former employers for the first time after coming off at half-time of United’s FA Cup win at Yeovil with an ankle knock. Right-back Rafael wasn’t so lucky, suffering a fractured cheekbone in the same game. Marouane Fellaini (rib), Marcos Rojo (thigh) and Daley Blind (knee) are hoping to recover in time, but Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia are definitely out.
Saints will have to do without the in-form Sadio Mane (calf), who has scored in each of his last three league appearances, with Jack Cork (ankle) and Jake Hesketh (knee) also sidelined. Nathaniel Clyne and Sam Gallagher are targeting returns to full fitness, while Jay Rodriguez is eyeing a February comeback.
Key battle: Carrick vs Schneiderlin
The pass-masters at the heart of each side’s respective midfield, whoever wrestles control of the centre circle could help determine how the contest pans out.
Michael Carrick’s return to the starting XI has played no small part in the Red Devils’ resurgence. Averaging 62 passes per game from 11 league appearances this season, the 33-year-old’s pass completion is fractionally shy of 90%, while he has also weighed in with 17 tackles and 16 interceptions.
Indeed, in United’s last outing at Stoke, Carrick completed the most passes (65/73) and attacking third passes (20/25), as well as setting up Radamel Falcao’s goal.
France international Morgan Schneiderlin continues to be linked with a move to Old Trafford, but recently revealed he expects to see out the season at St Mary’s.
The 25-year-old popped up with his fourth goal of the season to ensure an FA Cup replay at Ipswich, and he’ll need to be at his best if he and his team-mates are to take anything away from M16.
A repeat of his influential Boxing Day display at Crystal Palace would do nicely, where Schneiderlin completed the most passes (53/63), set up 2 chances, made 7 ball recoveries, 2 interceptions and won 4/5 tackles.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Saints 1-2 United (PL, Dec 14)
- Saints 1-1 United (PL, May 14)
- United 1-1 Saints (PL, Oct 13)
- United 2-1 Saints (PL, Jan 13)
- Saints 2-3 United (PL, Sep 12)
The pre-match subplot will again surround the two bosses, but with both reluctant to fuel the fires before December’s encounter, journalists are likely to receive even shorter shrift on the subject this time around. They’d rather do their talking on the pitch, and Koeman will be hoping to see a repeat of the 2006/07 season when both Eredivisie clashes between the pair ended in away wins. Back then it was Koeman who drew first blood, his PSV side triumphing 3-1 at Van Gaal’s AZ Alkmaar. LVG got his own back with a 3-2 win in Eindhoven.
Facts and figures
- James Ward-Prowse has assisted 3 goals in his last 3 league appearances.
- Saints have dropped fewer Premier League points than any other team from winning positions (2).
- Man United have kept only 4 clean sheets in their last 12 Premier League games but no team has scored against them more than once in that run.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Saints miss the pace of Mane on the counter; United to register sixth straight home win. 2-0.