Best Odds: 9/5
Demotivated Manchester United travel to St Mary’s in their penultimate Premier League fixture with their minds already in the Europa League final. On the other side, hosts have little more than just pride to play for as they look to grab a respectable place in the standings.
Claude Puel’s men got back to winning ways at Middlesbrough last time out after a five-match winless spell. The Saints are currently sitting in ninth place in the table and are ready to welcome Manchester United looking to avoid slipping up a couple of points lower in the table. Regardless of the outcome of their final two matches, Claude Puel’s men will finish the season with their lowest points tally in last four years and seeing the French manager leave the managerial post at the end of the campaign would hardly come as a surprise for anyone. Southampton have had plenty of problems in the scoring department this season as the Saints only managed to bag 41 goals in 36 games thus far and that is one segment of the game Southampton could be looking to improve against an uninterested side. The forthcoming clash will be Southampton’s change to exert revenge on Red Devils for the 2-0 defeat in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, although the Saints also suffered a 3-2 defeat in the EFL Cup at the hands of Red Devils later in the season.
Saints boss Claude Puel will not be able to call upon injured goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and defender Virgil van Dijk.
Full-back Sam McQueen is a major doubt, while the encouraging news is Charlie Austin possible return to the fold after a long-term injury layoff.
Having lost any possible chance of landing the top four spot earlier in the season, Manchester United shifted their focus to a competition we were not used to seeing them until last year. Europa League’s appeal is not luxury and silverware however, but a ticket to Europe’s elite club competition Jose Mourinho is so desperate to land. The Portuguese tactician does not hide the fact he long stopped motivating his players for the remaining Premier League matches and even went on to describe the English top flight’s remaining games as ‘matches we don’t want to play’. Back-to-back defeats to Arsenal and Tottenham, respectively, thus came as little surprise, seeing that Mourinho was making all sorts of changes to his team – both squad-related and tactical ones. The inconsistent to his approach and ideas could come to bite him in the back amid the busy schedule, and it is something Southampton should look to exploit this week and make United’s domestic campaign even more disappointing than it already is. Red Devils invested a great deal of money last summer to bring Paul Pogba and added a world-class striker in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which is why their failure to mount a more serious title challenge leaves bitter taste in the fans’ mouth.
The team paid price to the busy schedule and Mourinho will have a long list of unavailable players, which includes Fosu-Mensah, Ibrahimovic, Rojo, Shaw and Young.
On the positive note, midfielder Marouane Fellaini has served his three-match ban and should be involved in the game.
Key Factors to Consider
- Saints won only one of their last six Premier League matches
- Southampton last beat United at home in 2003
- Man United won 3 of the last 5 meetings with Southampton
- Saints scored only 41 Premier League goals in 36 matches thus far
- Southampton failed to score in 3 of their last 4 matches
Southampton head into the Manchester United clash with no competitive edge, but still looking for a win that could bring a valuable morale boost for under-pressure side. Manchester United could not care less if they end up losing another league match but the lack of pressure can be Red Devil’s strength, particularly with fringe players who could play to impress.
Best Odds: 9/5
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