Manchester United vs. Southampton, Saturday 2nd March, 15:00
The unbeaten record continues and it’s now 12 wins from 14 domestic outings under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and this was particularly pleasing given the crowded nature of the treatment room at present.
However, we did concede against Crystal Palace to end a run of four consecutive clean sheets across these games, while we’ve only managed two clean sheets at Old Trafford in our 13 league matches there this season.
We’ve even conceded against the likes of bottom-six outfits Burnley, Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Fulham in our last six on home turf, as all but the clash with the Cottagers came under new management, and although the Saints lack a regular goalscorer they’ve still bagged more strikes than as many as five other teams this term.
20-year-old Yann Valery, who plays at right wing-back for the Saints in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s 3-5-2 formation, was targeted by Arsenal last weekend for two-on-one situations and with Luke Shaw in such fine form, it would be a surprise if Solskjaer doesn’t attempt to replicate the ploy.
Indeed, neither the injured Jesse Lingard or Juan Mata are natural wide players and so with Diego Dalot set to start on the other side once more, there should be natural width in the team to pin back Southampton’s wide players.
That should enable the high press, and the Gunners forced plenty of turnovers employing such tactics when they beat Southampton the other week.
With match winners like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial absent, Solskjaer had named Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez as the players that needed to “step up” against Crystal Palace, with the former heeding the call.
Although the Belgian blew an early chance from eight yards (as is virtually customary for the striker at this point) he went on to deliver a brace to set us on the way to clinching the full three points, while he also played a role in the build-up to the third goal that gave us breathing distance in the closing stages.
However, Sanchez was once again lacklustre and a disappointment, constantly ceding possession, and now faces a real battle to save his Old Trafford career – one which he doesn’t appear up for.
Fred also struggled to make an impression on his first start since the 5th of February in the FA Cup, and so Andreas Pereira may expect to be given the nod here.
Diego Dalot filled in on the right of midfield (where he’s played for Porto in the past) and should expect to retain his place, though Rashford (if fit) should come in for Sanchez on the other side.
Goals can provide a wonderful boost to a striker’s confidence and make them forget all about the other wasted opportunities.
Given the ongoing injury crisis, Lukaku can be expected to feature down the middle again and with natural width in the team, can feed off crosses into the box.
With that in mind, we expect him to increase his standing in the squad with another productive night, even if it will still leave him behind Rashford in the pecking order once the injury crisis eases up.
*all odds are subject to change