On the back of a couple of missteps, Manchester United could really do with taking all three points when they travel to St Mary’s to take on Southampton on Saturday (12:30pm, live on BT Sport).
United began the season with a 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea but have picked up just a single point from their two subsequent fixtures. A 1-1 draw away at Wolverhampton Wanderers could be accepted; last weekend’s home defeat to Crystal Palace much less so.
The visitors went ahead just past the half-hour mark of an encounter that had been pretty even up to that point. That set the pattern for the rest of the match, with Palace defending and United pushing forward. Marcus Rashford had already hit the post with a penalty before substitute Daniel James seemed to have earned United a point with an 89th-minute strike.
That wasn’t the end of the scoring. After Paul Pogba was dispossessed in midfield, Palace moved forward and worked a shooting chance inside the area. Patrick van Aanholt’s effort squirmed past goalkeeper David de Gea and in to give Palace their first-ever Premier League win at Old Trafford and subject Man Utd to a third defeat in their last five home matches.
It would be easy to draw a negative narrative from United’s results to date, but the truth is that they have actually been pretty decent. They have both outshot their opponents and created the better chances in all three of their matches. If penalties against Wolves and Crystal Palace had been converted, as Rashford did so successfully against Chelsea, they would be looking at a more encouraging points haul from their early fixtures.
That isn’t to say that Man Utd are necessarily better placed to challenge for a top-four finish than they were last season. It is far too early to draw any sort of substantive conclusions regarding the relative strength of the teams likely to be involved in that race. Given that some of them have made similarly stuttering starts with worse underlying statistics, it needn’t all be doom and gloom at Old Trafford.
Defeat this weekend would almost certainly make that the prevailing mood and Southampton might just fancy their chances of taking a point or more off of their visitors. The two teams drew 2-2 at St Mary’s last season, while Saints were also able to record home victories over Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, two more members of the top six.
Like Man Utd, Southampton have probably been a bit better than results indicate so far. Three goals in a 12-minute blitz just past the hour mark saw them go down 0-3 to Burnley in an otherwise even match on the opening weekend. Then, having pulled the deficit back to one, Danny Ings missed an excellent late chance to equalise in their subsequent 1-2 home defeat to Liverpool.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side finally got their first points on the board away at Brighton last weekend. Their task was made easier when Brighton were reduced to 10 men just half-an-hour in. After summer signing Moussa Djenepo had come off the bench to fire home a sweet strike to put them ahead, Nathan Redmond sealed the victory by finishing off a late counter-attack.
Redmond was one of the players who benefited most from Hasenhuttl’s arrival in place of Mark Hughes midway through last season. The Austrian coach has a very particular approach. After a full pre-season to work with the squad and fully instil his ideas, Southampton are now starting to look more like a typical version of one of his sides.
Relegation is unlikely to be such a concern for Saints as it was last season and their performance against Liverpool in their first home match of the campaign certainly suggested they will be capable of giving most of the league’s better teams a solid run for their money.
Our Preview’s Saints vs Man Utd Betting Tips Verdict
Man Utd have played decently so far this season but they have still shown certain vulnerabilities that suggest Southampton have a decent chance of claiming all three points on Saturday.
- Bet on Southampton to win @ best odds of 31/10 with Betfair.