Manchester United’s visit to St Mary’s will be the first test of many as Jose Mourinho marshals his team through a challenging period of 6 away games in 7. Manuel Pellegrino’s men have had a decent start to the season themselves, losing just one in 5 games. The Saints manager will look to come out of the game with at least a point, a better result would be a bonus.
The players will be up for the occasion, as Manchester United will look to continue their fine run of form and Southampton would love an upset to put the wind in their sails.
There will be plenty of key player battles on the pitch that might determine the outcome. Let’s look at 4 such encounters which will be under close scrutiny on the night.
Eric Bailly and Phil Jones vs Shane Long
Eric Bailly and Phil Jones have had a solid start to the season. Their defensive partnership has been trusted by Jose and they will not be displaced from the starting lineup anytime soon. They will be up against a different striker in Shane Long, however and could have quite a task at hand. Shane Long is a lively striker. One that does not give the defence any sort of breathing space, and the same can be expected from the Saints frontman up against Bailly and Jones. His runs in behind the defence too will provide a headache to the defensive duo, and they will have to defend deep and compact, in order to avoid being hit on the counter. Though both Bailly and Jones are naturally quick, it would still take some doing to catch up with Shane Long who is one of the fastest players in the league.
Matic vs Romeu
Nemanja Matic has enjoyed a stellar start to his Manchester United career. He has managed to dominate the midfield in all of the games thus far. However, he would be up against a player of a similar mould in Oriel Romeu. The Saints midfielder is known for his interceptions and marking of key players in midfield. Matic occupies a key position in Manchester United’s midfield as an assuring presence in the middle of the park. His absence from the game could make a difference, and that might exactly be what Romeu will be instructed to do when the two meet on Saturday, making this an interesting battle to watch out for.
Rashford vs Cedric
Marcus Rashford has certainly grown in maturity under Jose Mourinho. His performance against Burton Albion showed his immense maturity, which is surprisingly high for a 19-year-old. His overall performance has seen a massive rise and it’s scary to think how much more of his potential is there to be unearthed. On Saturday, he will be up against Saints RB Cedric Soares. The Portuguese international has been a bright spark for the Saints in defence, and his playing style could be compared with that of his hero, Phillip Lahm. An intelligent footballer who does not play it risky, and loves to go forward, Cedric will have his work cut out as he will be tasked with keeping Rashford at bay for most of the game. Attacking guile against defensive astuteness? Definitely, a battle to watch out for.
Maya Yoshida vs Romelu Lukaku
Southampton have managed to keep 3 clean sheets this season but will be up against it on Saturday. Manchester United are the joint top goalscorers in the Premier League and have Romelu Lukaku to thank for their ruthlessness in front of goal. Maya Yoshida has been an influential figure at Southampton. His transition from a fullback to a centre-back has been a smooth one, but he will be tested by the mighty Belgian on Saturday. Romelu has been in a run of his own, scoring 7 times in 7 games and will look to continue the fine run of form he’s in. Yoshida’s experience will be massively tested against Lukaku, and this will be another mouthwatering clash to watch out for.