Southampton need to kick start their league campaign and victory at home to Manchester United on Sunday would be a good starting place (16:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Southampton put together a solid challenge for a top-four finish last season before eventually falling away to finish seventh. They lie 11th in the early days of this year’s Premier League table with six points from one win, three draws and a defeat.
Ronald Koeman’s (pictured) side took part in a thoroughly unentertaining 0-0 draw away to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. The home side were content to allow them the lion’s share of possession and Koeman afterwards bemoaned his side’s inability to turn their healthy dominance of the ball into any opportunities of particular note.
Southampton’s strong showing last season was built upon a defensive unit that conceded a league second-best 33 goals over the course of the campaign. They let in five goals in their opening two matches of this season but have tightened up thereafter, keeping three consecutive clean sheets and largely limiting their opponents to low-quality chances.
Koeman’s side have not, however, always been as impressive at the other end of the pitch. They beat Norwich 3-0 at home in their best attacking performance to date but have failed to score in three of their other four games. They will hope that summer signing Jordy Clasie can provide them with a little more guile once he settles into his new surroundings.
Koeman is unlikely to have the injured Clasie (ankle) at his disposal on Sunday, while long-term absentees Fraser Forster (knee), Florin Gardos (knee) and Ryan Bertrand (knee) are also unavailable.
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Man Utd finished fourth last season to secure a return to Champions League football and have made a solid if unspectacular start to the new campaign. They are third in the table with 10 points from three wins, one draw and one defeat.
Louis van Gaal’s side fell to a 2-1 defeat away to PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday in the first match of their Champions League group. Memphis Depay scored a well-taken goal against his former club to give United a 41st-minute lead, only for their hosts to equalise in stoppage time at the end of the half. The winning goal arrived just before the hour mark.
It was not, in truth, a particularly bad performance from Man Utd. They had the better of the chances and were slightly unfortunate to see PSV take such good advantage of two of the only three good ones they created. Indeed, the match followed a similar pattern to United’s others so far this season: they saw more of the ball and limited their opponent’s chances.
This United side has little in common with the more attack-minded teams of Sir Alex Ferguson’s time in charge, and their consistent recycling of possession and emphasis on keeping things tight at the back are starting to grate with some supporters. It has proved relatively successful to date but any sustained run of poor form will receive close scrutiny.
Van Gaal will definitely be without the injured Luke Shaw (broken leg) for the trip to the south coast, while Phil Jones (mild thrombosis) is also unlikely to take part. Wayne Rooney (hamstring) is expected to return after missing United’s last two matches.
Our Southampton vs Man Utd Preview’s Betting Tips
Man Utd won 2-1 in last season’s equivalent fixture but Southampton exacted revenge by winning 1-0 in the return at Old Trafford. United have won three of the six encounters since Southampton’s return to the Premier League in 2012 but all have been tightly contested fixtures, with no more than a single goal separating the sides in any of them.
Southampton have made a mixed start to the new season, winning just one of their opening five league matches, while also suffering elimination from the Europa League at the hands of FC Midtjylland. They lost a couple of key players over the summer, new signings are still settling in and they could really do with the confidence boost of a home victory on Sunday.
Man Utd are very solidly placed in the league table despite their less than inspiring start to the new campaign. Last weekend’s 3-1 win at home to Liverpool was the first time they had scored more than once in a league match this season, and they will hope to recover from their midweek defeat with victory against another potential top-six challenger on Sunday.
Both teams are strong defensively and we expect this to be a relatively cagey affair with limited goalmouth action at either end. So this preview’s conclusion is that a low-scoring draw seems the most likely outcome.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 23/10 with Bet365, Paddy Power or Unibet.
- Away from home, United generally look to retain possession early on to silence the home crowd and draw the sting out of their opponent’s early attacks. We expect to see something similar on Sunday, and it is therefore unlikely that there will be an early goal. Back the time of first goal to be over 31 minutes @ evens with Paddy Power.