Sunday 11th January – 16:00 – Old Trafford
The top two in the Premier League are involved in a tense battle, but there’s also an intriguing battle fight between Manchester United and Southampton in 3rd and 4th going on, and they meet at Old Trafford tomorrow. Louis van Gaal’s side are unbeaten in their last 10 premier League encounters but face a stern test against Ronald Koeman’s Champions League-chasing Saints. However, United will be hopeful of extending a nine-game unbeaten run against the south coast club as they look to put a four-point gap between the two sides. Southampton have won just once in their last four matches on the road but they look to have come through a minor blip in the league and are unbeaten in five matches in all competitions following a run of five straight defeats. Last weekend, they had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Ipswich in the FA Cup so will need a replay (on Wednesday), whilst the Red Devils progressed at Yeovil. So far in the January transfer window, both sides have made one signing, which you can read about in the team news section below.
The Key Battle: Michael Carrick vs Morgan 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 league outing at Stoke, Carrick completed the most passes and attacking third passes, 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.
- Ashley Young is the only player unavailable. The wide man will be out for four to six weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered on New Year’s Day at Stoke.
- Rafael (cheekbone), Luke Shaw (ankle), Marcos Rojo (thigh), Daley Blind (knee), Marouane Fellaini (illness) and Antonio Valencia (groin) have all overcome their respective problems could return.
- New signing Victor Valdes is in the squad but it’s unlikely he’ll dislodge David De Gea in the United goal.
- The Saints could hand a debut to Dutch winger Eljero Elia following his transfer from Werder Bremen.
- Nathaniel Clyne and Jack Cork have overcome ankle injuries but Maya Yoshida is on Asian Cup duty with Japan.
- Sadio Mane could be out all month with a calf complaint, although he has been named in Senegal’s squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Manchester United wins = 54 / Southampton wins = 24 / Draws = 27
Last Meeting: Southampton 1-2 Manchester United (8th December 2014)
Manchester United moved to third in the Premier League after Robin van Persie’s brace gave them victory over an often-superior Southampton at St Mary’s. United took an early lead as Van Persie pounced on Jose Fonte’s slack backpass, but Graziano Pelle swept in a deserved equaliser as the Saints fought back. Southampton had plenty of chances, but Van Persie guided in Wayne Rooney’s deep free-kick for the decisive goal.
Stat of the Match
Southampton are yet to beat a team currently in the top five of the league table (D1, L3).
Where can I watch it?
The game will be live on Sky Sports 1 from 3:30pm tomorrow (kick-off 30 minutes later), whilst you can also see the highlights on Match of the Day 2 in the evening on BBC One at 10:30pm.
My Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Southampton
Key players returning from injury will help United’s cause, and if Angel di Maria starts, he could have a big part to play. I think the hosts will win because of the pure quality in their squad, with di Maria and Rooney scoring, but the Saints will put up a fight, with Dusan Tadic scoring for them.