Manchester United welcome Southampton to Old Trafford as they gear up for their first home game of the season. The Theatre of Dreams will be absolutely buzzing after the widespread changes and superstar additions over the summer. The fans and the players have left behind a lacklustre couple of years and are ready to usher in a new era. United got off to a satisfactory start as they brushed aside a Bournemouth team 3-1, who were for most parts, a tad too respectful towards their formidable visitors. Southampton are coming off a slightly disappointing home draw against Watford after dominating the game and will play one of their most difficult games of the season today.
Southampton have won their last two games at Old Trafford keeping clean sheets on both occasions but need to topple Manchester City’s record of being the only team to win 3 consecutive away games at Old Trafford.
Jose Mourinho has lost 4 of his 7 League games at home, the same number he had lost in his previous 232 games at home.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 39 goals in his last 30 appearances in League matches.
Claude Puel has a poor record against Ibrahimovic, with the Swede having sored 11 times against Puel while he was managing Nice.
Southampton have gone 13 Premier League games without a clean sheet after a run of 6 consecutive shut-outs.
Paul Pogba is available after completing his suspension and so is Chris Smalling. The French International is in line to make his debut in his second innings at the club but the lack of a proper pre-season might see Smalling start on the bench. Borthwick Jackson is not expected to be fit for the game.
Jose Fonte missed the opening game but will be called upon by the manager despite speculations about his future. Ryan Bertrand is set to miss out once again while summer signings Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jeremy Pied will be pushing for starts.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1)
De Gea; Valencia, Blind, Bailly, Shaw; Fellaini, Pogba; Martial, Rooney, Mkhitaryan; Ibrahimovic
Forster; Cedric, Fonte, Van Dijk, Targett; Hojbjerg, Ward-Prowse, Davis; Tadic, Redmond, Long
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC- All the buzz is around the return of Paul Pogba to the Theatre of Dreams and rightly so. But watching Zlatan’s performance will be key. The Swede has scored in both his competitive appearances thus far but has not integrated with the team completely and his overall play and impact will be important to watch. He has scored 16 goals in his last 9 matches and will be the main threat to Southampton on Friday.
DUSAN TADIC- Manchester United dealt with the tepid attack of Bournemouth fairly comfortably but the likes of Redmond and the pace of Long will provide a different sort of challenge. And Dusan Tadic will be key for the Saints. After the departure of Sadio Mane the onus is on him to provide the creative spark and he will prove to a more troublesome opponent than Bournemouth’s attackers.
Though Southampton are on an impressive run at Old Trafford without a single loss in the last three appearances the match of Friday seems to be too much of an ask for them. With Mourinho at the helm and the likes of Zlatan, Rooney and Pogba in the opposition, the Saints will have to play out of their skins to take something away from Old Trafford.