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Southampton 1 v 1 Manchester United
Barclays Premier League
Sunday, 22nd August 2021 Kick-off 14:00
Southampton V Manchester United The Preview
Sunday, 22nd Aug 2021 10:41

Saints take on Manchester United at St Mary's with few people, even most of their own supporters giving them a chance, but stranger things have happened in football and if we select the right team we can surprise a few people.

It was only 9 months ago that United last visited St Mary's and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, in November, back then after 9 games Saints were 5th after topping the table a couple of weeks earlier and United were 10th.

Saints lead 2-0 at half time and lost the game in the last minute, back then there was some positivity amidst Saints supporters and this would continue for a couple of months yet.

But most Saints fans these days choose to forget the first half of the season and focus on the negative, yes the second half of the season was appalling, but there were reasons behind that, mainly injuries so there is cause to hope that the 2nd half of that season was a freak period of time rather than reflective of the team as a whole.

Of course we can't forget that result at Old Trafford, but that game perhaps was typical of the luck we enjoyed in the first months of 2021, a team ravaged by injury, reduced to 10 men in the first minute, some poor refereeing and VAR decisions, a bench with two goalkeepers on it and only 1 experienced outfield player in the middle of a bunch of kids.

Indeed most Saints fans would find it hard to recall Allan Tchaptchet as a substitute and his transfer value on Transfermarkt is given as £135 k, lower than many of the players he came up against that night earn in a week.

So on paper today looks a foregone conclusion, but two things should be noted, firstly when we had the same result against Leicester we beat them the next time we played them, secondly we now have a bigger squad and the bench today will have experience on it and for that matter so will the starting XI.

But if we are to stand a chance of getting anything out of today we need to put out the right side and a week ago at Everton we very much did not do that.

Kyle Walker Peters, Jan Bednarek and Stuart Armstrong were solid and consistent even during our bad run last season, to think of a side going out with out one of them in the starting XI and the other two left on the bench is unthinkable, for all three to be left out was truly bizarre.

The only positive thing that came out of that was the fact that we discovered that in Tino Livramento we have a star in the making.

So today Ralph Hasenhuttl has to go back to basics, no faffing around with the starting line up , have a solid defence, a good strong workmanlike midfield and with Adam Armstrong's work rate up front with Che Adams it gives us a chance.

So for me there are four changes to be made , firstly Fraser Forster should return to the Saints goal, Alex McCarthy for much of the game at Everton looked ok, but although in many respects you can blame him for the three goals, for all of them there were questions asked, his reflexes are slow and too many time he fails to react, like too many times last season the ball went past him with his hands by his side and no reflex action to stop the ball.

In defence there are two changes to be made KWP back to right back and Jan Bednarek into the centre of defence and then finally in midfield Stuart Armstrong.

But these changes should not all be like for like, Forster for McCarthy and Bednarek for Stephens are the two simple ones, at right back KWP should come in but Tino Livramento should not be dropped, but moved to midfield, with Stuart Armstrong joining him there that would mean Moussa Djenepo and Theo Walcott dropping to the bench.

This would be harsh on Djenepo who was a big threat at Everton and with a little bit of end product he could have been man of the match and a different result.

Yes it would also reduce our attacking threat a little, but with United the visitors we have to make sure we compete in a game that is likely to be one of the toughest of the season at home.

So the line up should be


KWP, Bednarek, Salisu, Perraud

Livramento, Romeu, JWP, Armstrong (S)

Adams, Armstrong (A)

That is a strong solid line up and is about digging in and earning our right to be in the game and then get something out of it, United had a great result against Leeds last week, but the Yorkshire side can play only one way and that is press and attack and this allowed United to run riot, we have to make sure we don't allow that to happen.

Earlier I mentioned the bench at Old Trafford and perhaps when we look at the players we can pick on the bench assuming my starting line up it highlights that the squad now has some depth.

Walcott, Djenepo, Diallo, Broja, Redmond, Tella & Stephens, even those who are now truly fringe like Shane Long & Moi Elyounoussi and some promising youngsters like Dynel Simeu, Caleb Watts and Will Smallbone when he returns from Injury.

You could at present even add a couple of players who at one time looked destined for the top but have faded a little in Yan Valery and Michael Obafemi.

One thing that can be said is that unlike last season when we were down to the bare bones, now Ralph Hasenhuttl has options in all areas.

Today is going to be a tough task, such is the Premier League and it's riches that with every season the gap widens between the Big Four clubs and the rest, we go to St Mary's today as much in hope as expectation, but it is hope that makes us support football clubs these days.

This is not a lack of ambition or resignation it is fact, I go this afternoon with the hope that we put out a solid side, that we compete with United and do not disgrace ourselves and finally the hope that we might get something out of the game.

If we do that then we can then move on to the games where we can get points on the board, with a new centre half imminent and perhaps another signing on top, there are many things to be optimistic about this season.

This season sees 25 years since we memorably beat Manchester United twice at the Dell, the first 3-1 when they changed their shirts at half time and the second the 6-3 rout, you never know this afternoon might be one of those great days that we go to football matches for.

Photo: Action Images

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allsaint54 added 12:27 - Aug 22
No doubt he'll start Long & Obafemi up front.

ElijahK added 12:50 - Aug 22
Great article Nick, I mean I sure would love to win 6-3 again or hear the next typical excuse like “we only lost because fans were in the stadium” 😂 but yeah I totally agree about how certain people are just always highlighting the negatives even though 2020 for us was an amazing year, but all fell down after Christmas.

Speaking of plastic fans though I just love/hate playing Man U! I mean the amount of those stupid, annoying, plastic fans that go around annoying everyone and acting like they know everything and go to every game, when in reality they’re from the likes of Ghana, China or some other Asian/African country, as well as all those glory hunters that live less than a 5 minute walk from St Mary’s! Whilst if you win, then it shuts the, all up and don’t get annoying idiots onto you, but when we loose they’re just even more annoying.

Slacker added 12:52 - Aug 22
Agree with your line up Nick. I thought it was followed up with a third 1-O too!

sandywelsh added 13:21 - Aug 22
Saints are Unchanged thats a Total Joke!!! Looks like it could be time for Ralph to GO!!!

Boris1977 added 13:28 - Aug 22
Is Ralph trying to show the board that he's not happy with the squad available to him or just 'resting' the better players for more winnable games? We're laughing into our pre match pints as Ralph's decisions are causing more mirth than annoyance now and the expectation is now below zero which weirdly reduces pre match nerves. Looking forward to the car crash this afternoon.

Boris1977 added 13:29 - Aug 22
Sandy, Ralph obviously thought last week's result was a 'positve' 3-1.

ElijahK added 13:31 - Aug 22
These lineups today aren’t the greatest but seeing the starting 11 and subs we have, it’s only really Forster and Stephens who need to maybe change. And Livramento was great last week and yeah I’d of preferred Walker-Peters at the back today, but then again they’re both decent and is one where I’m happy ether way, and with the Walcott situation, well who else do we have as Armstrong’s not even on the bench (which suggests that he’s either Injured (which makes sense as he supposedly got a minor one before the Everton game, but I guess it wasn’t a minor one) or somethings gone on behind the scenes) which leaves just Red,one and Elyounoussi, both of which have been really poor when playing for us previously, whilst Walcott ain’t the greats last game, but was actually decent at times last season.

But McCarthy and Stephens wise, well I’d have preferred them to start but it’s not like we’ve got Nuer and Dias on the bench.

ElijahK added 13:33 - Aug 22
Sorry I mean Stephens and McCarthy not to start

KriSaint added 13:34 - Aug 22
I don' t know whether to laugh or cry.

PeterL22 added 13:35 - Aug 22
Ralph! What’s the definition of insanity? To keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Why Theo and no Stewy, why Salisu (or Stephens) and no Bednarek?

WestSussexSaint added 18:21 - Aug 22
Seems Ralph made mugs of us all. Decent performance today especially from those who were much maligned from last week.

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