Monday 8th December – 20:00 – St. Mary’s Stadium
Southampton host in-form Manchester United at St Mary’s in the Premier League in the final game of this weekend’s Premier League football. The away side, who can leapfrog their opponents into third with victory at St Mary’s, have an excellent record against the south coast club, winning nine and losing just one of the last 12 league meetings. Van Gaal’s men have won just once on their travels this season but will be in confident mood of picking up three points after a run of four straight wins. Back-to-back defeats against Manchester City and Arsenal have stalled Southampton’s bright start to the season under Ronald Koeman and the Dutchman will be desperate for his team to halt that losing run. The Saints haven’t won the last ten games between the two sides though, and another defeat tonight really would signal the end to their stellar start to the season – and they’ve still got Chelsea and Everton to play this month. Both sides are struggling with injuries, so it should be a close battle…
The Key Battle: Fraser Forster vs Robin van Persie
This week, Fraser Forster claimed that he is looking to dislodge Joe Hart from the England number one goalkeeper spot, after his impressive displays for the Saints.
He joined from Celtic in the summer for £10 million and has since kept seven clean sheets to help the St Mary’s Stadium outfit to a brilliant start in the league.
The 26 year old will look to strengthen his claims to add to his three caps for the Three Lions with a good performance against United.
Although, he will be hoping that their main front man, Van Persie continues to fire blanks. The Dutchman has only netted four league goals in 13 starts this campaign, and many have called for young James Wilson to be given a chance.
The 31 year old scored 56 goals in the two seasons either side of his move from Arsenal, but only managed 12 last year and it appears age is catching up with the forward.
- Southampton midfielder Jack Cork has been ruled out for six weeks with an ankle injury sustained against Arsenal last week while Toby Alderweireld was also forced off at the Emirates with a hamstring injury.
- The Belgium international is a doubt for the meeting with the Red Devils, while Morgan Schneiderlin, Jay Rodriguez (knee), James Ward-Prowse (foot) and Sam Gallagher (knee) are long-term absentees.
- In more positive news for Saints, Dusan Tadic has overcome a knock and should feature.
- Louis Van Gaal has confirmed Wayne Rooney will be fit for the trip. The England skipper had a scan on Thursday to examine a possible knee problem but has been given the all-clear to feature.
- However, record signing Angel di Maria will not be ready to return from his hamstring injury so will miss a second consecutive game.
- Luke Shaw (ankle), Jonny Evans (ankle), Rafael (groin), Daley Blind (knee) and Phil Jones (calf) are all also expected to miss out for the visitors.
Southampton wins = 24 / Manchester United wins = 53 / Draws = 27
Last Meeting: Southampton 1-1 Manchester United (11th May 2014)
A 1-1 draw on the final day of last season confirmed Manchester United’s absence from European competition for the first time in 25 years as they finished their worst Premier League campaign in seventh. Rickie Lambert shot Saints in front, with United claiming Nemanja Vidic had been fouled in the build-up. Juan Mata equalised with a curling 25-yard free-kick in the second half, and the game turned out to be the last in charge for both managers, with Mauricio Pochettino joining Tottenham Hotspur and Ryan Giggs’ interim role finishing.
Stat of the Match
This is the first ever Premier League game contested by two Dutch managers. Who will come out on top – Koeman or Van Gaal?
Where can I watch it?
Sky Sports 1 have this game covered as their Monday Night Football this week. Coverage begins at 7pm with kick-off an hour later.
My Prediction: Southampton 0-1 Manchester United
The Saints aren’t on good form and United are. It’s as simple as that. Star striker Graziano Pelle hasn’t scored in his last five games and it is hard to see where else the goals are going to come from. As I said at the start though, United don’t have their strongest squad available, but should scrape a 1-0 win courtesy of a Wayne Rooney goal.