Southampton v United, Saturday 1st December, 17:30
Less pressure away from Old Trafford
The atmosphere at Old Trafford has become stifled after just four victories from 10 matches there this season, while we’ve also had to sit through four games where the team drew a blank – including last weekend against bottom-six outfit Palace.
The midweek effort over Young Boys threatened to produce goals on occasion, but in the end it took a stoppage-time strike to register on the board.
However, away from the confines of the Theatre of Dreams we’ve done a little better, scoring in all nine road trips and netting at least twice seven times.
Recent match winner Marouane Fellaini has bemoaned the “frustrating” conditions in front of the faithful, but we really ought to have enough about us having won five of our last eight on the road, with two of the exceptions against Chelsea and City.
Case for the clean sheet
The two weakest sides we’ve encountered on the road this term have yielded clean sheets against Burnley and Young Boys, and up against one of the division’s worst attacks this should follow suit.
Mark Hughes’ sorry outfit have failed to score in five of their last eight in the league, with Fulham the only team they’ve netted more than once against during this spell, which isn’t exactly astonishing given how many goals the Cottagers have conceded so far.
Meanwhile, five of our last six encounters with the Saints have seen fewer than three goals as we registered a clean sheet in those five as well, with the exception the League Cup final back in February 2017 as Zlatan Ibrahimovic stole the show.
That day seems a world away now – probably for both sides involved.
Victor Lindelof may have provided Mourinho a headache with his hamstring injury after emerging as United’s most consistent defender over the past couple of months, but Jose ought to feel confident he has the players to muzzle the Saints’ attack regardless of any snipes he aims the board.
Only Huddersfield and Palace have found the net fewer times than Mark Hughes’ team, while just three sides have conceded more, so there’s really no excuses for anything other than maximum points and a clean sheet.
Saints poor under Hughes
While we’ve often grumbled about the stubbornness and occasionally unnecessary spikiness of ‘the Special One’, the Saints have their own whinger in chief at the helm.
‘Sparky’ may have saved them from the drop last term, but he hasn’t really addressed any of Southampton’s long term problems and they’ve been especially poor when facing ‘’Big Six’ teams, losing all six such games under his tutelage.
The three that came this term saw Liverpool and Chelsea win 3-0, while City hit them for six, but those teams have all been more impressive than us this term and the likes of Guardiola, Klopp and Sarri employ a more attacking brand of football than Mourinho ever will.
Young Boys are the only team we’ve netted more than twice against this season, but given the hosts’ shoddy defensive record we ought to manage two goals, leaving the correct score as an attractive proposition.
*all odds are subject to change