United vs City: Are the Manchester clubs set for failure this season?

It’s no secret both Manchester Untied and Manchester City are not living up to the high expectations set by the fans, pundits and club in general so far this season. Both sides are currently outside the top four more than halfway through the domestic campaign, which is no where near where they expect to be, so are the two set for failure this season? Lewis Addley explores… 

Ten games into the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City things were looking like a foregone conclusion for the season ahead. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss looked to have bought his style of play to England with success, winning ten games on the bounce, but fast-forward to January and City are struggling in 5th place.

Things are not much different domestically for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United either. The Red Devils remain outside the top four and look a long way behind league-leading Chelsea.

Both clubs have reached the knockout stage in Europe, City in the Champions League and United in the Europa League, which surely will be the focus of their seasons respectively come the return of the competitions in a few weeks. United are on the brink of reaching the final of the League Cup, but that alone will not be enough to reduce the pressure on Mourinho, with more always expected of the Manchester giants.

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So are both of these clubs set for failure?

In a word, no. There are plenty of games for the league table to continue to change. But the competition for the top four is so intense that it is difficult, with current form in mind, to think both sides will make the cut. United had just began to pick up form but their consecutive draws suggest they’re still one step away from troubling the sides above them on a consistent basis.

City on the other hand seem to have no league form whatsoever, they’re fast becoming a side who look beatable from the off and Pep is going to have to change something. They’ve gone from having a powerful, tight backline to a nervy outfit who look like they will concede with every shot, something Claudio Bravo is picking up an unwanted affiliation for, having conceded the last six efforts on goal he has faced.

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As previously mentioned United are on track to reach the League Cup final but given the current nature of expectancy, that trophy alone is not enough for a title-chasing side. Both Manchester clubs are still challenging in the FA Cup, a tournament they are going to need to reach the latter stages in at least, such as the regard winning it is held in.

European action offers contrasting situations, City face PSG in the Champions League, while United drew Saint-Étienne in the Europa League. City’s performance last year was their best effort to date in the competition and given the strength of the sides they can pull in the latter rounds if they are to progress, winning it would be some feat, although not impossible given the quality of players available to Guardiola. 

United’s progression in the Europa League wouldn’t be something Mourinho is bothered by, if you’re to believe his stance on the competition, however winning it would guarantee them a place in the Champions League next season regardless of their league finish. With that in mind United have to take it seriously, no doubt they will.

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There is no doubt both Manchester clubs have the ability to win some silverware this season between them, but domestically it isn’t looking overly promising. With track-record in mind, many have been surprised with the struggles the two have endured in their first season. In the modern game transitional periods are becoming less and less acceptable, especially considering the amount of money that’s being spent on transfers. Perhaps not the first season of the Mourinho and Guardiola era their fans would have had high hopes for?

Is it too early for the word failure to be thrown around or have Mourinho and Guardiola not lived up to expectation so far? 

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, December 11 – 14:15 GMT (09:15 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester United 6/5 – Draw 23/10 – Spurs 23/10

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford on Sunday in the standout fixture of the Premier League action this weekend.

United know they’ve got a game on their hands with the visit of Spurs, this meeting usually offers an exciting tie, but given recent league form for United a draw would be far from surprising.

Jose Mourinho’s side are frustrating their fans. They’re creating well in games but are missing hatfuls of chances and aren’t strong enough defensively to hold out when they take the lead.

Despite the negatives, United are unbeaten in five in the league (W1, D4). Their draw last weekend at Everton was a disappointing result considering they looked to have the points wrapped up, but it’s another game unbeaten nonetheless.

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Tottenham will be full of confidence coming into this game. They thumped Swansea 5-0 at home last weekend and it could and probably should have been nearer double figures.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men are six points ahead of United in the league. They sit 5th, three points outside the top four and six points off top spot, they’re well in the mix.

Spurs need to win this game to keep pace with the top four. If results go in their favour they could end the weekend in third place.

The North London side have lost just once in their last 14 outings. They’re in fine form and are scoring freely, so they have to start with their usual high-press and intensity to put United on the back-foot from the word go.

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Team News

Manchester united are still expecting to be without Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw for this tie. Eric Bailly could be in line to start his first Premier League game in six weeks, he played 90 minutes in the Europa League in midweek. Wayne Rooney is available again after serving his one-match suspension.

Tottenham have just three injury concerns ahead of this tie. Erik Lamela and Vincent Janssen are both expected to remain out, while Ben Davies is a doubt. Toby Alderweireld could make his first Premier League start since October 15 after he featured in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Key Points

Manchester United’s last five: D/W/D/D/D

Tottenham’s last five: D/D/W/L/W

Key Stat: Manchester United have won just once in their last nine Premier League games.

Key Player: Harry Kane – The Spurs talisman is in fine form. He has netted seven league goals this season and will be excited at the prospect of getting at a nervy United defence. He will have to outshine Zlatan Ibrahimovic to ensure Spurs take all three points here.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur – United to fall to another unfavourable result against one of the top sides in the league. Spurs know they have the chance of taking all three points at Old Trafford, but just because United are out of form by no means makes this an easy tie.

What does signing Paul Pogba actually mean for Manchester United?

The summer-long transfer saga regarding Paul Pogba was finally and perhaps unsurprisingly put to rest today as the Frenchman completed his £89 million return to Manchester United. But what does his arrival actually mean for the club? Lewis Addley explores…

In a summer market of crazy transfer fees, Paul Pogba has become the world’s most expensive player at £89 million, how long that fee will remain the highest remains to be seen. Pundits and fans alike have cast their opinion on just about every talking point regarding the 23-year-old Frenchman, from topics such as how Pogba is or isn’t worth the money to whether Manchester United actually need him.

So let’s have a look at what Pogba’s sensational return to United actually means for the club in terms of how Jose Mourinho will be able to get the best out of the highly-rated Frenchman and the impact his arrival could have on their current midfielders.

Where exactly can we expect Pogba to play?

Pogba netted eight goals last season for Juventus in Serie A from a central midfield role and in the modern game he plays a somewhat old-fashioned style. Pogba doesn’t tend to be deployed as an attacking midfielder, despite the fact that he can be a sensational finisher from inside and outside the box. He dictates the play, evident from the fact that his passing statistics are far more impressive than his shooting statistics. Pogba managed an average of 83% passing accuracy compared to 37% shot accuracy in Serie A last season.

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Jose Mourinho is widely expected to play his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation on the opening weekend of the Premier League season. We can expect the new signings to feature from the off, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic set to lead the line. Behind him, Anthony Martial should start on the left, captain Wayne Rooney in behind in his preferred number ten role with Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right to form a frightening trio of attacking support. With those front four slots occupied, it is clear Pogba is likely to be used in an anchoring role, deep through the centre of the park, most likely alongside Morgan Schneiderlin.

Will midfielders be leaving now Pogba has joined?

As everyone was still waiting for Pogba to be announced, Mourinho made it very clear that he was looking to bring in one more ‘high-quality player’ and have his business done before the opening weekend of the season. With that in mind it doesn’t look like the United boss is looking to offload any other players than those who have already been reported.

Juan Mata’s torrid relationship with Mourinho came into question once again after he was substituted just 27 minutes after coming on in Sunday’s Community Shield final win over Leicester City. Despite Mourinho giving what some may accept as an appropriate reason for Mata being replaced, it has only increased speculation on the Spaniard’s future at the club.

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The future of Bastian Schweinsteiger remains up in the air. It has been made apparent that the German is surplus to requirements and he looks set to be on his way out from the club just one season after joining.

It looks likely that Mourinho has Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini in his plans, but just how much playing time the three midfielders will amass is unclear.

The remaining midfielders in question will not be expected to challenge for a holding role at the club as they are either wingers or upcoming youth talent. One worth mentioning is Daley Blind, the dutchman can play in the holding role but he has predominantly featured at the back for United.

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There is no doubt the arrival of Pogba will be a boost for the United camp and some of his teammates have already taken to social media to show their excitement of his return. It is clear he has already made a huge impact in terms of talking points but now it is time for him to step up and deliver, to show any doubters that £89 million is a worthwhile fee for his services.

Is Pogba worth £89 million and are United right to have resigned the Frenchman?

The Dugout: Why Mourinho will bring instant success to Manchester United

The 2016/17 Premier League season is fast approaching and a number of clubs will start the campaign with new managers. Fans will be expecting more from their team and this time around, ‘The Dugout‘ will assess why Jose Mourinho will bring instant success to Manchester United…

The appointment of Jose Mourinho has excited Manchester United fans on the whole and he has already started his usual antics with the press. The new United manager means business, he has signed some world class players already and more are being linked to the club on a daily basis.

It has always seemed a matter of when rather than if, in terms of Mourinho managing Manchester United, and it looks to have come at the perfect time for the club and the man himself.

In Mourinho’s unveiling as United boss he made a number of bold statements and signalled his intent, saying all the things the fans wanted to hear: “I want everything. I want to win matches, I want to play well, I want to play young players. I want our fans to cheer us defending a lead rather than chasing a lead.”

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So let’s have a look at why United fans can expect instant success with Mourinho

First season silverware…

Mourinho has a brilliant track record of bringing silverware in his first season at clubs.

Porto 2002/03: Primera Liga, UEFA Cup, Taça de Portugal
Chelsea 2004/05: Premier League, League Cup
Inter Milan 2008/09: Serie A, Supercoppa Italianna
Real Madrid 2010/11: Copa del Ray 

Squad revamp… 

Manchester United fans don’t need telling that new signings are a feature of Mourinho’s first season as they have already signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly. Negotiations are also underway for a reported world-record £100 million fee for Paul Pogba.

Porto 2002/03: £6.8m – 15 players signed
Chelsea 2004/05: £99.3m – ten players signed 

Inter Milan 2008/09: £43.6m – seven players signed
Real Madrid 2010/11: £62.25m – six players signed

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Consistency…

Mourinho’s consistent ability to win trophies has seen him win at least one trophy each calendar year from 2003-2012. He also retained league titles at Porto (02/03 & 03/04), Chelsea (04/05 & 05/06) and Inter (08/09 & 09/10), while dethroning what has been labelled as one of the best FC Barcelona sides in history with Real Madrid in 2011/12.

The Treble…

Manchester United fans will dream of winning the treble once again and Mourinho has a proven track record of bringing three trophies in a single season. At Porto in the 2002/03 as mentioned above, he won three trophies and in his second season as Inter boss, the historic treble of Serie A, UEFA Champions League and Coppa Italia saw him sign off in style.

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Premier League experience…

Not that United fans will need reminding – Mourinho has won the Premier League three times. He holds the record for the fewest matches taken to rack up 400 points – just 174 games – bettering Sir Alex Ferguson’s 191 and Arsene Wengers 208 games, respectively.

Manchester United fans will be eager for Mourinho to beat the Premier League highest points tally of 95 – a record he achieved in the 04/05 season with Chelsea as he won the league losing just once.

Despite Mourinho’s sour half season with Chelsea in 2015/16, he still boasts the best Premier League win rate of 66% (win rate stats count after 20 or more league games managed).

His current Premier League record stands at 212 games, 140 wins, 44 draws and 28 losses and his overall experience has seen him rack up 513 league games managed with six clubs.

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While there is a huge amount of work for Mourinho to do to bring instant success to United, it is clear enough that he has the ability to return the club to the highest level in his first season. He will be eager to lift his fourth Premier League trophy and bring the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford for the first time since the 2012/13 season.

Will Mourinho be an instant success at United? Can he win the Premier League?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Bournemouth

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. AFC Bournemouth

Venue: Old Trafford – Tuesday, May 17 – 20:00 BST (15:00 ET)

Match Odds: Man Utd 4/7 – Draw 16/5 – Bournemouth 17/4

Match Preview

Manchester United host Bournemouth on Tuesday evening in a postponed fixture from Sunday’s final day. A bomb scare at Old Trafford ahead of kickoff saw the match abandoned so the 2015/16 campaign has been extended by a couple of days until this game is concluded.

United came into the final weekend needing a win to stand a chance of qualifying for the Champions League. But local rivals Manchester City sealed a 1-1 draw at Swansea and have subsequently secured a top-four finish.

That will come as a major blow to United, who now need to focus on trying to secure fifth place. They are level on points with Southampton, who occupy fifth spot, but are behind on goal difference.

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A draw on Tuesday would guarantee European football for the Red Devils, although they will have to settle for the Europa League.

Bournemouth have nothing to play for other than pride here and will hope the disruptions surrounding this game don’t affect their chances too much.

Eddie Howe’s men have not won in four but have only lost three of their last 12 away games in the Premier League (W5 D4).

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A win at Old Trafford would cap off a solid season for the Cherries, who will be looking to kick on and improve further for next season.

The reverse fixture saw Bournemouth beat United 2-1 in one of the season’s shock results, although a repeat result looks unlikely here, given their contrasting end-of-season form.

Team News

Manchester United will be without Marouane Fellaini as he serves the final game of his suspension here, while Luke Shaw is not fit enough to return here. Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Will Keane all remain injured and won’t be involved. With a top four place no longer available, Louis Van Gaal may rest a number of first-team players ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final.

Several members of the Bournemouth team were set to go on holiday on Monday, but those plans have had to be changed as this postponed fixture needs to be played. Eddie Howe can name his strongest side available, but Tyrone Mings, Adam Smith and Sylvain Distin are all still out injured.

Key Points

Manchester United’s last five: W/W/D/W/L

Bournemouth’s last five: W/L/L/L/D

Key Stat: Bournemouth have yet to ever score a goal at Old Trafford in four previous attempts. They have lost all four games by an aggregate score of 12-0.

Key Player: Marcus Rashford – The young United striker has been called up to Roy Hodgson’s preliminary Euro 2016 squad and will look to sign off his whirlwind Premier League season with a goal here. He hasn’t scored in over a month but could end that mini-drought here, so long as he starts in attack.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 1-0 Bournemouth – The drama from Sunday means that United now know ahead of kickoff that they cannot qualify for next season’s Champions League. That might affect Louis Van Gaal’s approach to the game, as Saturday’s FA Cup final is now the club’s biggest game of the year. That said, the Red Devils will want to end their league campaign on a high in front of the home fans and a narrow victory is expected. United have only conceded one goal in their last five home league games so Bournemouth are unlikely to walk away with three points.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Leicester City

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Leicester City

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, May 1st – 14:05 GMT (09:05 ET)

Match Odds: Man United 1/1 – Draw 23/10 – Leicester 29/10

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome Leicester City to Old Trafford in what could be the day Claudio Ranieri’s side make history and win the Premier League.

United’s last Premier League game was their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. There is still a chance for them to finish in the top four, they sit five points behind but they do have a game in hand. The Red Devils are reliant on other results going their way.

Louis Van Gaal’s side will be full of confidence having dramatically reached the FA Cup Final last weekend, giving them a great chance of silverware this season.

Manchester United have won their last six home matches against Leicester so the away side will have to break that trend if they are to be crowned champions this weekend.

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Leicester City extended their unbeaten run to seven games last weekend with their 4-0 demolition over Swansea.

Ranieri’s side are within touching distance of the Premier League title, but only all three points will secure the silverware this weekend.

Leicester have won six of their last seven league games and kept six clean sheets along the way. We can expect them to be as difficult as ever to break down here.

A win here would cap off what has been an amazing season for Leicester, they have been in good form away, winning three on the bounce.

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Team News

Manchester United could be without up to five through injury as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Adnan Januzaj, Luke Shaw and Will Keane are all ruled out, while Phil Jones is a doubt.

Leicester City are still expected to be without Matthew James through injury, while Jamie Vardy is serving the additional game of his suspension.

Key Points

Manchester United’s last five Premier League games: W/W/L/W/W

Leicester City’s last five Premier League games: W/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Manchester United have won their last six home matches in the Premier League.

Key Player: Kasper Schmeichel – The Danish ‘keeper could follow in his fathers footsteps and win the Premier League title at Old Trafford. We can expect both ‘keepers to be busy but Schmeichel’s performances have been an integral part of Leicester’s chase for the title. He has kept seven clean sheets in his last ten league games.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 0-0 Leicester City – The champagne will have to stay on ice for at least another week for Leicester City. This will be a very tight tie with neither side looking weak at the back. Manchester United will have to do something not many sides have successfully achieved over the course of the season and break Leicester down. With both goalkeepers in fantastic form they will be the stars of the show here.

Is this the biggest hint yet that Mourinho will be the next United manager?

It’s no shock to hear any developments that Jose Mourinho is nearing a return to management and the former Chelsea boss is the front-runner for the Manchester United job.

Portuguese media outlet Correio da Manhã report Mourinho is finalising details of his chosen new home in Manchester. 

Louis Van Gaal is expected to be ousted from the club at the end of the season after spending huge sums on a number of players who have failed to make much of an impact for the Red Devils.

No move is expected to happen before the end of the season but there will be added pressure for Van Gaal to make the top four to ensure Mourinho can attract the players he will want if he succeeds the Dutchman.

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Mourinho has openly stated he is waiting for the ‘right move’ ahead of his potential next job, reported by Sky Sports News.

“I always feel that it’s better to wait, not to rush, better to be calm, to wait for the right moment, the right move,” the three-time Premier League winner said.

“I feel that starting the next season with a new club and project is probably the best thing for me.”

Mourinho has played down the situation and has taken a light-hearted approach to reports linking him with managerial roles across the globe and his current management status.

“I read so many different things. One day it says I go to China, another day it says I go to Italy, and people say I’m back to Inter Milan. I’m here – probably, you are saying I will go to the Singapore national team.

“It’s quite a funny career. I am the English champion, and I still have no job.”

Will Mourinho be the next United manager? Will his managerial qualities shine through once again in his next role?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Manchester City

Competition – Barclays Premier League – Manchester United vs. Manchester City 

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, October 25 – 14:05 GMT – (10:05 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester United 6/4 – Draw 5/2 – Manchester City 13/8

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome rivals Manchester City to Old Trafford on Sunday in the Manchester Derby and a standout fixture of the weekend in the Premier League.

This is a huge fixture for both sides even this early into the season. Manchester United sit third in the Premier League, on 19 points, trailing their opponents by two points.

Louis Van Gaal’s side have won four of their last five domestic games but come into this one off the back of a tough, well earned draw in Moscow in the Champions League in midweek.

Last weekend Manchester United thumped Everton 3-0, and they look like they mean business. Picking up points in games like these have huge implications on the title race.

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Manchester City will be looking to continue their great run of form against their rivals. They have won four of the last five meetings between the sides.

City have been in great domestic form, winning 13 of their last 15 Premier League games, but have lost two in their last five. They have scored 11 in their last two domestic games.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side come into this one off the back of thumping Bournemouth 5-1, where Raheem Sterling bagged a hat-trick. Wilfred Bony impressed, stepping in for the injured Sergio Aguero.

Manchester City have some injury problems with key players missing, but will be more than up for the task of taking points from United this weekend. They scored a late winner to take all three points against Sevilla in the Champions League in midweek, thanks again to Kevin De Bruyne.

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Team News

Manchester United have four injury concerns. Luke Shaw remains out as he recovers from his broken leg. Ashley Young, James Wilson and Paddy McNair are all doubts.

Manchester City’s injury woes continue. They’ll be without key players Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and summer signing Fabian Delph.

Key Points

Manchester United’s Form: W/W/W/L/W

Manchester City’s Form: W/L/L/W/W

Key Stat: City have won four of the last five in the Manchester Derby.

Key Player: Juan Mata – The Spaniard has been in excellent form so far this season and he will be looking to pick holes in the City defence.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 2-2 Manchester City – The sides to share the points in a game full of action.

Louis Van Gaal receives backing from Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester United FC manager Louis Van Gaal has what it takes to succeed according to Sir Alex Ferguson.

Speaking exclusively with Sky Sports, the former United boss thinks Van Gaal possesses the experience and confidence required to be the club’s current manager.

“Louis has got a great background with Bayern Munich and Barcelona. He’s got the pedigree there’s no doubt about that.

“I love his press conferences. They are brilliant. I can see some of the press guys twitching in their seats as he answers some of the questions. He’s got the confidence to deal with that.”

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Ferguson believes Van Gaal has the ability to make the right decisions and that the club is heading in the right direction under his guidance.

“We all have our different philosophies and beliefs. We have different ways of doing things, the way we pick teams and how we look at the qualities of players.

“He’s got the experience. He knows how to handle these things.”

Van Gaal’s style of play is starting to show through as his side impressed over the weekend. Despite conceding twice at Southampton, they held out for the win and scored a marvellous 44-pass goal.

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Ferguson hinted that patience is key and that the United manager will get his team the way he wants it.

“It’s going to take time because everyone is different. Taking over from myself it’s going to take time to get his team on the pitch.”

Is Louis Van Gaal the right man for United and will he be a success?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Southampton vs Manchester United

Competition: Premier League – Southampton vs. Manchester United

Venue: St. Mary’s Stadium – Sunday, September 20 – 16:00 BST (11:00 ET)

Match Odds: Southampton 15/8 – Draw 11/5 – Manchester United 6/4

Match Preview

Southampton host Manchester United in this week’s later Super Sunday clash, in a game that should be a low scoring affair between two sides that will look to keep things tight defensively.

Both sides boast stern defences, proved by the fact that the Saints haven’t conceded in their last three Premier League outings.

Sunday will also see Morgan Schneiderlin return back at his old stomping ground, St. Mary’s, just months after leaving. The French international spent seven years with the south coast side before his summer move to United.

Southampton’s 2015 Premier League Record: P5 – W1 – D3 – L1

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United come into the game off the back of a dismal night in Eindhoven on Tuesday which saw them lose 2-1 to Dutch champions PSV and lose key man, and former Saint Luke Shaw to a horrific leg break.

They will be hoping for a better result on Sunday, and will also be hoping to see another wonder goal from new striker Anthony Martial, after he set Old Trafford alight with a solo effort last Saturday in his United debut against Liverpool.

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Though, should captain Wayne Rooney be fit to start, Martial make have to make an appearance off the bench. The Englishman remains a doubt but could be in line to start.

Manchester United’s 2015 Premier League Record: P5 – W3 – D1 – L1

Team News

Southampton are missing Fraser Forster, Ryan Bertrand and Florin Gardos with knee injuries. Jordy Clasie and Gaston Ramirez are still struggling to shake off niggling injuries and will miss the visit of United.

Manchester United will be without defenders Luke Shaw and Phil Jones for the trip to Saints. Shaw suffered a double fracture in his right leg in Champions League action on Tuesday night and Phil Jones is still struggling with a blood clot. Wayne Rooney is a doubt with a hamstring injury but could return in place of Anthony Martial.

Key Points

Southampton’s last five: D/L/D/W/D

Manchester United’s last five: W/W/D/L/W

Key Stat: Manchester United have won on six of their last seven away trips to Southampton in all competitions.

Key Player: David De Gea – After a summer in limbo, Spanish stopper De Gea returned to his frightening best with a stellar display that earned United all three points against Liverpool last week. He remains United’s best asset and will be important here.

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Score Prediction

Southampton 0-2 Manchester United – We’re not expecting it to be as easy as the scoreline may suggest for the Red Devils but we still expect them to take all three points and remain in the early season title chase.