Two sides who suffered contrasting fortunes in midweek prepare for battle in Saturday’s Premier League lunchtime clash as Manchester United welcome Southampton to Old Trafford.
The Red Devils were held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley in midweek, while Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men ran out 3-2 winners in a pulsating clash with Tottenham Hotspur.
All eyes were on the impending mammoth battle between Man United’s Harry Maguire and Burnley’s new talisman Wout Weghorst at Turf Moor, but it was the ex-Wolfsburg striker who towered over his opposite number physically and metaphorically in a well-deserved point for the Clarets.
Paul Pogba smashed home the opening goal after Raphael Varane thought he had broken the deadlock only to see VAR overturn his effort, and Burnley responded straight away in the second period through Jay Rodriguez after Weghorst beat Maguire all ends up.
The long line of underwhelming results for Man United continues, with Ralf Rangnick unable to inspire an immediate upturn in fortunes following their miserable FA Cup exit, and the Red Devils have now dropped to fifth in the table after West Ham United’s win over Watford.
Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are both breathing down the Red Devils’ necks as the race for Champions League football hots up, and while the draw with Burnley did extend Man United’s unbeaten streak in the Premier League to four matches, it was certainly two points dropped rather than one gained.
However, Rangnick’s side can boast a positive record of four wins from their last five in the Premier League at Old Trafford ahead of this contest, but Southampton are no strangers to taking points off Big Six sides on their own turf, as evidenced in midweek.
Allowing James Ward-Prowse all the time in the world to pick out his intended target often has fatal consequences for the opposition, and Tottenham Hotspur were simply outplayed by the dead-ball specialist and his team in North London on Wednesday night.
Jan Bednarek’s own goal and Armando Broja’s finish saw the two sides level pegging at 1-1 in the first half – although the Saints should have arguably killed the game off by the half-time whistle – but headers from Mohamed Elyounoussi and Che Adams sunk the Lilywhites, who had a last-minute leveller from Steven Bergwijn ruled out for offside.
The emotion of the occasion so very nearly got the better of Ralph Hasenhuttl once again, with the Austrian’s side now boasting four wins from their last six in all competitions and occupying 10th spot in the table as a result.
While such an impressive victory at the home of Tottenham may cause some apprehension within the hosts’ ranks at Old Trafford, the Saints have now conceded at least two goals in their last eight away matches in all competitions, with their Premier League tally of 26 conceded on the road the joint-worst record in the division alongside Leeds United.
The Red Devils will need no second invitation to expose such frailties as they did at Old Trafford last season – nine was fine for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men on that unforgettable occasion – and a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s earlier this season extended Southampton’s winless run against Man United to 12 games in all competitions.
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We say: Manchester United 2-1 Southampton
Very rarely do Southampton end a game having failed to score and managed to keep a clean sheet, but putting in similar levels of effort at Old Trafford will be a tough ask for Hasenhuttl’s side after giving everything they had and more against Tottenham.
There ought to have been some stern words in the Man United dressing room in midweek, but with the reintroduction of Ronaldo and some more potential rotation in the final third, Rangnick’s side will hope to shade a close contest and reignite their top-four pursuit.