MX23RW : Sunday, October 17 00:55:43| >> :120:10053:10053:
Sep 23, 2017 at 3pm UK at St Mary's Stadium
Attendance: 31,930
Man UtdManchester United
FT(HT: 0-1)
Lukaku (20')

Preview: Southampton vs. Manchester United

Sports Mole previews Saturday afternoon's Premier League meeting between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium.

Manchester United take on Southampton at St Mary's Stadium on Saturday afternoon, aiming to maintain their impressive start to the campaign that has seen them collect 13 points from the first 15 on offer.

The Red Devils have been near perfect in all competitions so far, also earning victories in the Champions League and EFL Cup, but they did slip up in their most recent away outing when being held by Stoke City.


Mauricio Pellegrino observes the action during the Premier League game between Southampton and Watford on September 9, 2017© SilverHub

Mauricio Pellegrino may still be finding his feet on the south coast but, three months to the day after being brought in to replace Claude Puel, the Argentine faces his toughest test yet by quite some distance.

The former Alaves chief, who worked wonders at the La Liga club last term by guiding them to a top-half finish and to the final of the Copa del Rey on their return to the top flight, has so far had a nice run to ease him into English football.

Four teams that finished in the lower reaches of the division last term, as well as a newly-promoted club - it has been far from a challenging opening month to the campaign, though Pellegrino will no doubt have mixed thoughts heading into this clash with United.

Two wins, two draws and a defeat leaves the Saints as one of seven sides on eight points at this early stage, with that solitary loss coming at home to Watford a fortnight ago when their problems were laid bare for all to see.

Scoring goals has long been a problem for Southampton, having failed to find the net in seven of their last eight matches at St Mary's - including a stalemate with United at the tail end of last season - and scoring in just two of their six matches overall this term.

Going further back, they have netted in four of their last 14 fixtures in all competitions - an area that Pellegrino desperately needs to work on, with predecessor Puel failing to find the right formula and ultimately losing his job because of it.

The forward trio of Shane Long, Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin have scored just one goal from open play between them across the last 18 league games - a run stretching back some 27 hours since the March 4 win over Watford when Saints fans were treated to four goals.

Southampton, yet to win back-to-back games under their new manager, desperately need to seek a solution if they are to ensure that last term's disappointment was merely a blip and not the start of a downward spiral.

Recent form in Premier League: DWDLW
Recent form (all competitions): DWLDLW

Manchester United

Jose Mourinho winks during the Premier League game between Stoke City and Manchester United on September 9, 2017© SilverHub

Scoring goals has certainly not been a problem for United, who have netted at least twice in all seven of their games since the Super Cup defeat against Real Madrid in early August to begin their campaign in style.

Four more goals were registered against Burton Albion in the EFL Cup in midweek - a competition they won last season thanks to victory over Southampton in the final - meaning that they have scored exactly four times in half of their matches.

Incredibly, nine of those goals have come on the 80-minute mark or later in the Premier League - more than 17 of the 19 other clubs have managed across the full 90 minutes.

Unlike last season when converting chances proved to be a problem, particularly in tight home matches, the Red Devils are now punishing opponents at will and can boast eight different league scorers already - twice the number from this stage 12 months ago.

Jose Mourinho, a perennial title winner in his second season at a club, knows how to get the best out of his group of players, including those at the back where the stats also make for impressive reading.

Four clean sheets from their first five games, only coming unstuck in the 2-2 draw with Stoke City last time out on their travels, ensures that they remain locked on points and goal difference with rivals Manchester City at the summit.

Many neutrals are already predicting a straight shootout for the Premier League title between the neighbours, much like in 2012 when it went down to the final seconds, and Mourinho has made quite clear that he intends to challenge in all four competitions this term.

With winnable games against Southampton and Crystal Palace to come in the top flight before the international break, as well as CSKA Moscow in the Champions League in a week's time, Mourinho will simply be hoping that the feel-good factor continues for a little while longer yet.

Recent form in Premier League: WWWDW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWWW

Team News

Romelu Lukaku looks unimpressed while playing for Manchester United in August 2017© SilverHub

Marcus Rashford appeared to pick up a knock after scoring a brace in the midweek cup win over Burton, meaning that Anthony Martial may start on the left of a three-man attacking midfield.

Paul Pogba, Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all still absent, but Romelu Lukaku is fit and scoring for fun as he aims to join Louis Saha in scoring six goals in his first six league games for the club.

There could be a place in the matchday squad for Luke Shaw against his former side after making his first appearance of the season on Wednesday night, while Marouane Fellaini, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Antonio Valencia, David de Gea, Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic are all in contention after sitting that game out.

In terms of the hosts, Virgil van Dijk may come in for his first start of the season following his three-minute cameo from the bench in the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace last weekend.

Even if Van Dijk starts there is a good chance that Northern Ireland international Steven Davis, the matchwinner at Selhurst Park with his early strike, will retain the captaincy in a likely five-man midfield.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is welcomed back after being absent for the birth of his child, meanwhile, and Austin has also been tipped to return to the squad after his latest injury struggle, providing competition for Gabbiadini and Long.

Southampton possible starting lineup:
Forster; Soares, Van Dijk, Hoedt, Bertrand; Romelu, Lemina; Tadic, Davis, Redmond; Gabbiadini

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Young; Matic, Fellaini; Mata, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Lukaku

Head To Head

Southampton have lost 24 Premier League matches against Man United - four more than they have suffered against any other opponent in the division.

The Red Devils are undefeated on their last nine visits to St Mary's Stadium in all competitions, meanwhile, though they were held to a goalless draw in the most recent encounter four months ago.

Since the turn of the century, the Saints have picked up just four wins from 25 against their opponents, narrowly going down to a 3-2 defeat when they met in the EFL Cup final in February.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Southampton 0-3 Manchester United

Games involving Southampton do not tend to provide too many goals - under 2.5 in six of their last seven on home soil - but Man United are seemingly brushing aside all comers this season. That, combined with their decent record on the south coast, could make for a long afternoon as far as the Saints' faithful are concerned.

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Jose Mourinho winks during the Premier League game between Stoke City and Manchester United on September 9, 2017
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