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Southampton 2 v 3 Manchester United
Barclays Premier League
Sunday, 29th November 2020 Kick-off 14:00
Saints V Manchester United The Preview
Sunday, 29th Nov 2020 11:45

It has been 17 years since we beat the Red Devils at St Mary's and that in itself has been our only victory over them at home since leaving the Dell, this is a game with a lot riding on it for both sides.

It is a rare occasion when we start a game against Manchester United as favourites, but that is the case, we start the game in 5th place with 17 points knowing a win will take us up to 3rd, whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brings his side to St Mary's 7 places and 4 points adrift of us.

This means this game has a lot at stake, for us a win would signal our intent to be able to stay the course in the top half of the table and in what will be a very strange season perhaps challenge for a European place again.

For United though a defeat would see them potentially drop to 14th but more importantly 7 points behind Saints.

This insult would surely change the special relationship between Man Utd fans and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and after a two year period in charge where nothing has really got better and with Mauricio Pochettino waiting in the wings, Solskjaer would surely be put out of his misery should he see his side go down to Saints.

It has been 17 years since our last win over Manchester United at home, our only victory against them at St Mary's coming in August 2003 when a James Beattie goal gave us a 1-0 win, what better time to break that hoodoo.

It will not be an easy game for Saints though, United problems are not due to a lack of class in their side, they showed in a 3-1 win at Everton a few weeks ago that they can beat good sides when they want to, the trouble is their overpaid superstars often don't want to put themselves out and earn their money.

The question is which United side will show up at St Mary's will it be the one that beat the Toffee's and also destroyed Newcastle 4-1 on their own patch or the one that lost 6-1 to Spurs at Old Trafford and other poor performances.

The truth is that like Saints they seem to be better on the road, in their 3 away games so far they have won all of them scoring 10 goals in the process, so despite their lowly position this is far from a foregone conclusion.

We need to do what we do well and that is put their underperforming defence and midfield to the sword, but like us they are lethal on the break and that could be our undoing if we are not careful.

Ralph hasenhuttl will of course be without Danny Ings, he will also have Nathan Redmond missing with a hamstring injury, I don't think he will change much in what has been a successful core line up, but he does have a decision to make.

At Wolves he played Theo Walcott up front, but he has to look at the left midfield spot, Moussa Djenepo looked lost at Molineaux and his positional play is lacking a little in games where it will be key for the two wide midfielders to support the full backs when we are defending, Djenepo could be a liability in this respect.

So does he drop Walcott back to the midfield and if so who does he bring in to support Che Adams up front ?

Will Smallbone, Jake Vokins or even Yan Vallery could also be employed in the left sided role if Ralph wanted to keep a two man attack and not mess around with making too many positional shuffles.

Ibrahima Diallo filled in on the right side in the final minutes at Wolves and had a great little run and cross, but essentially he is not a wide man but a defensive midfielder and needs to play in the centre, , he could bring him in to this position and move James Ward Prowse out wide, but would Ralph want to upset the balance of the engine room of the team.

Alternatively he could change formation, bring Diallo into a three man central midfield, use Walcott and Armstrong out wide to get up fast to support Adams on the break when needed.

This might be a preferred option in that it keeps the balance of the team intact.

So an exciting afternoon in prospect, it looks like being an open attacking game as mentioned United have scored 10 in 3 games on the road in the Premier League, but they have also conceded 5.

Hopefully by the final whistle we will be sitting in 3rd place even if just for a short time with Chelsea V Spurs next up in the day's games.

As I have said in an article earlier in the week, it is not just about individual results going forward, we are going to lose games this season, this might be one of them, but the key to success is making defeats one offs and not losing streaks, we need to judge progress in tranches of 3 games, we need a minimum of 5 points from every run of 3 games, that is how we have to judge whether we are going to be able to last the pace in the top10 and higher.

Photo: Action Images

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