VENUE – Old Trafford (Capacity – 75,811)
KO – 2000 GMT
Referee – Lee Mason
Manchester United host one of the promoted sides to Old Trafford, Southampton. The Red Devils are fresh of their FA cup win against Fulham while Southampton had a weekend off as they eliminated in the 3rd round of the FA cup by holders Chelsea. Both the clubs are in search of 3 points albeit the need for a win is different for both the sides. While Manchester United want to keep rivals City at an hands distance, Southampton who have won back to back promotions in the last two season want 3 points to keep themselves out of the relegation dog fight. Nigel Adkins was sacked last week after a run for disappointing results. Despite this season’s struggles he had a good record for the Saints but football is a business these days. Manchester United are in a good run of form and completely dominated London club Fulham in the 4th round tie of the FA cup on the weekend. They were also able to their top scorer Robin van Persie as well. The new Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino faces a tough task in his second match in charge but if the match against Everton is anything to go by Southampton will be very compact.
Sir Alex Ferguson saw his team pegged back in injury time at White Hart Lane. The lead at the top of the table was cut to 5 points in the process. The manager will be looking for his team to get back on track and Southampton could be the victim of a rampage. The team was at their best in the win against Fulham and it seems they are getting better. Javier Hernandez scored a brace while Rooney is getting back to fitness. The defensive shape of the team is much better than it was about a couple of months ago. The back four is usually constant which has created better understanding with the keeper. Young is out injured for about a month but the return of Nani has eased out the problems on the wing. The Portuguese did not have a perfect night against Fulham but some of his wing play was good and the manager will hope that the winger improves on the weekend performance. Carrick partnered Anderson in the middle of the park and the Brazilian was lively throughout the match. With important matches in Europe coming Anderson could play an important role. In this match though, Cleverly might take his place. The English international has formed a great partnership with Carrick and he will be first choice. Sir Alex Ferguson and his team dropped a lot of points at the back end of last season which cost them the title. The Scot will be sure to avoid those problems this season and games like these are the one where dropping point could be costly.
Nigel Adkins was sacked on 18th Jan, 2013 due to a string of poor results. The decision came as a bit of surprise. He won the club back to back promotions. To be fair he deserved a little more time but football is less about passion and more about business these days. Mauricio Pochettino has taken over the reigns at the club. His first game in charge was a 0-0 draw at Everton. The defense was in better shape than before but players are always eager to impress a new boss. This match will be the real test for the boss and the players. Manchester United are on the top of their game and Southampton will be need to be on the very best to get anything from Old Trafford. Unbeaten in the last 6 games, Southampton are on a decent run. The only problem with that being out of the last 6 games they have won only one game while drawing the other five. Rickie Lambert, Southampton’s top scorer will have to play a very important role in the match as he will be alone upfront and will have to cover a lot of the ground without the ball. The manager will look to have a defensive formation as keeping United at bay will be the first mission. Recent performances have suggested that the Saints could cut it out with the best and this will be a test of the endurance the team has shown.
Manchester United – The Premier league is back and the manager will definitely put out his strongest squad for the match. Robin van Persie was rested on the weekend against Fulham and he will definitely be back for the league assignment. The top scorer in the league is in fine form. He will partner the English international Wayne Rooney. The Englishman got back to scoring way against Fulham and will be eager to continue that. David de Gea is the undisputed No. 1 now-a-days and he has improved a lot. Vidic and Ferdinand will resume their partnership in the centre of defense. The full back personnel will be the Brazilian Rafael da Silva on the right while Patrice Evra will start on the left. Nani who had a decent game on the weekend will switch to the left wing while Valencia will replace Giggs in the lineup. The wing play has been a problem for Manchester United this season and the return of Nani may not necessarily solve it but the Portuguese is a gamble, which if it pays off it looks great. The wingers will provide the width to the front men Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
Southampton – Despite disappointing results Nigel Adkins always maintained a 4-2-3-1 formations and it is a bit successful in the recent past. Against Manchester United they will have to be slightly more defensive. The goalkeeping situation is a bit of a mystery but Boruc seems to have been given the responsibility in the previous matches. Jos Hoovield and Maya Yoshida will be in the centre of defense. The partnership has been effective and will start together. Nathan Clyne will start on the right side of defense while Luke Shaw will take his position on the left. Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork will start in the middle of the park. Their job will be to protect the back four and keep Manchester Unite forwards at bay. It will be a tough job for the midfield duo. Puncheon and Guilherme will start on the flanks. They will be supported by Ramirez in the middle just behind Rickie Lambert. They quartet will be a very important factor and possibly could be the difference between the Saints getting something out of the game.
Manchester United – Robin van Persie– The Dutchman was rested for the FA cup assignment on the weekend and he will fresh and ready for the midweek. The former Arsenal striker is the leading scorer in the league and will be looking to add to his already impressive tally of 18 goals. His partnership with Wayne Rooney is still very young. The duo was the leading scorers last season and the addition of Persie to the squad has added sharpness to the frontline. The addition of Persie and United being the highest scorers in the league are not coincidences. Sir Alex Ferguson pulled off a masterstroke in the summer and it is paying off big time. The Dutchman has been the inspiration and the savior of many occasions. He could possibly be the difference between the two Manchester teams this season.
Southampton – Rickie Lambert– The English striker has taken to the Premier League like fish to water. He has been one of the bright lights amid the club’s disappointing season. He has scored 10 goals in the league, not a bad return for the striker. He has been a nuisance for the opposition defenders. He is Southampton’s outlet when the team find themselves under a lot of pressure from the opposition. The striker holds the ball well and brings his teammates into the game. He will be very important against Manchester United as the team will be under siege for most of the time. The Englishman has risen up to the challenge so far in the league and when he comes out at Old Trafford he will have to be at his very best.
Written by ABHIMANYU HALAKHANDI
Devils_Trifecta on twitter