Anil Kandola says… History could be made in more ways than one on Sunday
Manchester United can make history on Sunday.
If they avoid defeat, they will equal the Premier League’s longest unbeaten away record set by Arsenal back in 2004 – 27 games – , which will certainly go down well with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United have had an impressive record on the road recently and that includes a long history of success at St. Mary’s. However, what they must try and do is stamp out their tendency to go behind in away games.
Although some would say it is a winner’s mentality to continuously come from behind to secure the win, it is sure to be high on Ole’s list of areas that need improving.
With Manchester United fans hopeful of seeing Raphael Varane make his debut for the Club on Sunday, it is imperative he and the rest of the defence can secure their first clean sheet of the season nice and early.
It took United five games to secure their first clean sheet last season which is certainly an area they must look to tidy up considering the four-time Champions League winner Varane is now available for selection.
As Southampton have lost their main goal threat in Danny Ings, many would believe this is an ideal game for Varane and Harry Maguire to begin their eagerly anticipated partnership.
United have not lost away at Southampton since November 2003 and although all runs and records come to an end, Ole’s players will try and make sure that brilliant sequence will continue at least for one more year.
United secured the double over Southampton in the 2020/21 campaign and there is simply no excuse for a slip-up on Sunday. Although perhaps it may not be as straightforward as the 9-0 disposal the last time these sides met, United have incredible depth in the squad which allows them a variety of attacking options if the game does not pan out the way they intend.
Casey Evans says… United have more opportunities for goals this time
In the 9-0 win against Southampton, United had seven different goalscorers.
Bruno Fernandes was the key to the team’s performance that day, recording a goal and two assists against the south-coast side. He consistently drove the team forward and challenged the keeper with several shots.
Fernandes has continued his great form into this season, scoring a hat-trick on the opening day against Leeds.
He looked sharp alongside Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba, the latter of which was an unused substitute in the fixture. With Marcus Rashford out injured, Pogba will replace his threat with an unmatched creative output.
Options like Anthony Martial, who scored a brace in the previous fixture, Daniel James and Donny van de Beek will be available off the bench, allowing United to stay on the front foot throughout the match.
In addition to this, Jesse Lingard has returned in good form after a spell on loan with West Ham United and the signing of Jadon Sancho has reinforced the front line even further.
It seems Solskjaer also believes Lingard will have a bigger role to play, saying in his most recent press conference; “I think Jesse’s first priority is to get into our team
“[He] is back to his fitness, he played really well in the behind-closed-doors game on Tuesday and he’s come back bubbly and in good shape.
“He’s got a big part to play.”
The way Southampton set up also plays into Manchester United’s favour. Hasenhuttl’s preference for pressing football with a high line allows Solskjaer to fully implement his counter-attacking style of play.
United will look to move the ball quickly up the field and find the gaps behind the Southampton line. Players like Greenwood, Sancho and Fernandes running onto balls played by Paul Pogba will be able to unlock their defence.
The overlapping runs of Luke Shaw on the left-hand side will also be important, helping create another option for creativity.
I expect whoever starts at number 9 for United, be it Edinson Cavani, Greenwood or Martial, will turn up with a goal against Southampton at the weekend if they get into the right positions.
To this end, I would start Cavani upfront to begin with, maybe Martial coming on later in the game to have the greatest impact.
Furthermore, I believe this match will be the first game that we fully see the effect that Eric Ramsey has had on United’s set pieces.
Southampton have lost their main outlet for defending corners as Jannik Vestergaard has moved to Leicester this summer. If Southampton haven’t learned to adapt their corner defending tactics to account for this, it may cause problems for them.
Maguire has scored two goals in the preseason from headers in well-worked corner routines and we may see a goal from the centre-back in this fixture.
Well, technically Sir Alex Ferguson said that first.
Even though we all know that United were able to carve Southampton open to the tune of 12 goals over two games in last year’s Premier League season, the one thing we need to have improved upon is our defence.
When we last played at St. Mary’s Stadium, United were barely able to clinch the three points, going all the way to the wire with Cavani scoring in the 92nd minute to nullify Southampton’s 2-0 lead they had going into the second half and ultimately win 3-2.
Even though we have discussed prior one new addition in Sancho, the introduction of two new key acquisitions over the summer should help in this game, Varane and Ramsay.
Both of Southampton’s goals in last season’s fixtures came from set-pieces with Jan Bednarek sneaking in a header off a corner, and James Ward-Prowse doing as you expect, scoring a beautiful free-kick on the edge of the box.
But this is where Varane and Ramsay come in.
Varane comes to United with title-winning experience, leadership, speed, but most importantly, aerial dominance. The French defender actually equalled his new partner Maguire’s aerial duel win rate, winning 75% of duels for Real Madrid last season.
This heading ability should be able to nullify indirect set-pieces individually and won’t allow the Saints’ defenders to take advantage.
The other goal from that game, the aforementioned Ward-Prowse free-kick might have been settled after the staff acquisition of Ramsay.
Eric Ramsay joins United from Chelsea as an individual development & set-piece coach. With how bad United were defending and attacking set-pieces last season, this ‘signing’ was paramount to United’s success.
Solskjaer said about Ramsay when he was brought in: “He’s a very highly rated coach who is going to be working with individuals and in charge of set-plays as well.
“We’re excited. He’s young, fresh and with new ideas, an innovative coach we know from before.”
Even though we are all expecting goals galore, hopefully, these new signings will reduce the number of goals conceded and United get that clean-sheet against Southampton.