Southampton v Man Utd Prediction: United to prevail on the south coast
Southampton will welcome a full cohort of fans back to St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday afternoon, for the first time in the Premier League for almost 18 months, as they play host to a buoyant Manchester United.
The Saints will probably be relieved that their fans weren’t present on either of the occasions in which they faced the Red Devils last season - as they certainly wouldn’t have been very happy.
In the home fixture in November 2020 Hassenhüttl’s side squandered a 2-0 lead in half an hour, with Edinson Cavani’s 92nd minute winner hitting like a sucker punch after the home side had dominated for the majority of the game.
If that result was a sucker punch, their visit to Old Trafford was truly a knockout blow. Reduced to ten men after two minutes and 4-0 down by half-time, you’d have been mistaken in thinking things couldn’t get much worse for the visitors.
They went on to lose 9-0 for the second time in as many seasons (having lost to Leicester by the same scoreline in October 2019), as well as having another player sent off late on. It was a game they will have been thankful their supporters couldn’t make the 450 mile round trip for.
It’d be disingenuous for me to say at least this season is looking brighter for Saints fans but, if the last couple of weeks are anything to go by, they’re in for a long day when Ole’s Reds come to town.
When new arrival Adam Armstrong opened the scoring against Everton at Goodison Park in their opening fixture, it seemed like things might not be so bad for the side I tipped for relegation at 5/1 beforehand.
Already 3/1 for the drop now, things quickly turned sour. Goals from Richarlison, Abdoulaye Doucouré, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin were more than enough for Everton to take all three points, and it could very easily have been more.
Benitez’s side was able to take advantage of an inexperienced back-line and a disconnect between Young centre-back Mohammed Salisu, and new signing Romain Perraud.
The left-back’s tendency to drift wide to meet the ball, coupled with the Ghanaian’s reluctance to follow, meant Everton were able to exploit that channel with both frequency and efficiency - with all three of their goals coming from that area.
It’s a weakness United will certainly be looking to exploit with their technical players (hello Bruno Fernandes…), whilst Jadon Sancho could provide the width necessary to draw out the French full-back, especially taking into account Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s reluctance to commit himself forwards.
The Red Devils put five goals past Leeds United last weekend, with the aforementioned Bruno notching his first hat-trick for the club and Paul Pogba contributing a mind-boggling quartet of assists. With a host of names still to add to that side, United look a daunting prospect for the hosts - even with captain James Ward-Prowse signing a new five-year contract on Thursday.
Southampton v Man Utd Tips
Ole’s men ran riot at Old Trafford on opening weekend and I can’t see Southampton putting up too much resistance here. Still unbeaten away from home since January 2020, they were electric last season - winning 12 of their 19 games on the road. 10 of those came while also conceding though, and with Adam Armstrong to deal with, don’t be surprised to see them win 2-1 or 3-1 here.
Soon enough Maguire will have the calm head of Raphael Varane alongside him, but until he does he’s worth taking on in the cards market. He’s been booked in two of his last four starts against Southampton (including the 9-0, somehow), and he’s picked up three cards in the last seven games he’s played that were officiated by Sunday’s referee, Craig Pawson.
Spanish midfielder Romeu is never too far away from a card, and is likely to have his hands full with United’s flair players. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him caught in the space Perraud vacates, which is a dangerous position for him to be in.
Southampton’s centre-back duo won only half of their aerial duels against Everton, and now have to find a way to stop the man affectionately nicknamed ‘Slabhead’ from set-pieces. Maguire won 100% of his aerial duels last weekend, and managed 36 shots in the Premier League last season.
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