Southampton welcome Manchester United at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday afternoon in a match which is of crucial importance for both managers. Ralph Hasenhuttl will try to notch his second consecutive EPL victory after his team’s slow start to the season. The Saints lost their initial two matches away to Burnley and at home to Liverpool. However, their difficult away victory at Brighton will surely spur them to go for a win against the Red Devils too.
Solskjaer on the other hand, will try to prove that United’s home defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace was merely a blip. United’s performance in that match was not up to scratch and the Norwegian will hope that the insipid home performance will be an exception rather than the rule in this season’s matches.
Southampton’s Season So Far
Southampton started the season quite poorly. They had a difficult first match at Turf Moor which they lost convincingly 3-0. That poor performance was followed by a vastly improved showing against European Champions Liverpool at home a week later.
However, that was still not enough for the Saints to collect their first points of the season. They played quite well against Klopp’s men, and even came close to a late equalizer, but it was Liverpool’s former striker Danny Ings who sent his shot inches wide of goal in the dying minutes of the match. If Ings had scored, the Saints would have got a point, however, since he didn’t, they were still pointless after two rounds.
That match was enough to signal that the Saints will collect their first points sooner rather than later though. They did exactly that when they visited the Amex Stadium in Brighton. Brighton at home is a very difficult proposition even for much stronger teams than Southampton, but the Saints still managed to win it courtesy of goals from Djenepo and Nathan Redmond. Brighton’s Andone’s red card also played a role in Southampton winning the match more easily than expected, but Hasenhuttl’s men didn’t mind that.
This maiden victory of the season means that the home side will once again try to collect some points when United comes to town and they will be even more motivated to notch two consecutive league victories. We say league victories, because the Saints also played a midweek match in the EFL Cup on Tuesday which they also won.
Hasenhuttl’s men faced a highly rotated and youthful Fulham side in the EFL Cup so the 0-1 victory was more than expected. That match was also an opportunity for the manager to see some of his bench players perform and he will be very pleased that another one of his strikers, Michael Obafemi, also got on the score sheet.
Bet on Southampton vs Man United - With Welcome Bonus
United’s Season So Far and Penalty Shenanigans
Manchester United’s fortunes this season are going in a somewhat opposite fashion to those of their next opponents. The Red Devils started the season very strongly by thumping Europa League champions Chelsea 4-0. Lots of fans saw that victory as a sign of things to come and had their hopes raised through the roof.
However, United’s next couple of performances dampened proceedings and now their fans don’t know what to expect in future matches.
In their second match of the season, United faced Wolves away from home and were very close to grabbing all 3 points. Anthony Martial put the Red Devils on the front foot in the 27th minute and Solskjaer’s men seemed to be on their way to continuing their 100% start of the season.
Ruben Neves threw a spanner in the works though, when he put the teams back on level terms in the second half.
However, United were given a lifeline when Paul Pogba was given the chance to equalize from the spot in the 68th minute. Before the penalty was taken, there was a discussion as to which Manchester United player should take it and, little did their fans know, this would become the subject of all United conversations for the next two weeks.
This is because Marcus Rashford took his penalty successfully in the first match against Chelsea and most fans were expecting the young English striker to take all of United’s penalties this season. However, that was not the case at the Molineux as Pogba took it upon himself to put United in front once again.
Unfortunately for United fans and for Pogba, the Frenchman missed the penalty and United didn’t manage to find a way through until the end of the match which ended 1-1. After the match, Solskjaer tried to defend his decision Pogba to take the penalty and said that United have two designated penalty takers, Rashford and Pogba – whoever feels more confident at a given moment takes the penalty.
That was a pretty vague answer, but Solskjaer might have got away with it if United didn’t have to face another penalty miss soon. However, they did, as a penalty was awarded in their match against Crystal Palace.
This time the penalty was maybe even more important as United were losing at home to Roy Hodgson’s relegation battling side, so Marcus Rashford stepped in. Rashford hadn’t missed a penalty prior to that moment so it probably seemed like the logical thing to do after that Pogba controversy. However, the English forward hit the post, United lost at home and Solskjaer had some explaining to do once again.
Solskjaer’s Inexperience at Top Level
As unlikely as it seems, United will probably dread the prospect of yet another penalty in their match against Southampton. It is not so much the pressure which comes with it, but the whole shenanigans which the manager has created that will scare fans the most.
Solskjaer was very vague in explaining his reasoning behind his decisions and that has created a lot of doubt regarding his management, leadership and decision-making skills.
United fans were not sure whether the job should be given permanently to Solskjaer even when he was on a winning run at the start of his tenure. Now, when it seems that the wheels are slowly falling apart, one cannot seem but wonder whether those concerns were justified.
The Norwegian has made many questionable decisions since he was appointed and fans are not sure whether he is up to the task. Some of the poorly judged things he did include reducing United’s midfield to only one solid midfielder in Pogba, letting Lukaku go without a fight, and not keeping Sanchez even though the club is one attacking injury away from a full blown crisis.
These decisions are bound to come back to United to bite them at some point of the season and as much United fans like to lay the whole blame on Ed Woodward’s doorstep, some of the blame must also go to Solskjaer. Ole is showing signs of a manager who does not know how to steer the ship and the Red Devils’ plan for the season might start to unfold earlier than everybody expected.
Goals are to be Expected
In terms of the match itself, punters should expect lots of goals. In their last 15 home games, Southampton were both generous in defence and potent in attack. Of those 15 matches, 14 ended in both teams scoring.
United’s away form is similar. Last season, Red Devils’ matches had over 2.5 goals in more than 68% of their outings away from home. On top of that, it was their defence which played a big part to those high scoring matches which means that they are likely to concede at least one goal once again. Close to two-thirds of their away matches last season ended in both teams scoring a goal.
This means that the match will almost certainly produce at least a couple of goals at both ends and probably end in both teams scoring. This notion is made even stronger by the fact that Manchester United are starting to lose their way both on and off the pitch and this usually results in lots of goals conceded and scored.
The first match of the fourth round should be one that neutrals will enjoy in, as it will be full of goals, but it will also be one which won’t be for the most faint of heart United fans.