Manchester United will be looking to continue their unbeaten start to 2016 with victory over a mid-table Southampton side that has not won away from home since the first week of November.
Wayne Rooney’s elusive first goal at Anfield for 11 years did not just hand Man Utd a very sweet three point haul; it may have breathed new life into their season. They were far from firing on all cylinders against arch rivals Liverpool, but they dealt with what came their way with reasonable comfort before striking with their only shot on target, so in essence it was a perfect away performance, and the result even had manager Louis van Gaal speculating about a possible title challenge.
Despite the unpredictable nature of this season’s Premier League, as things stand that would appear unlikely and the immediate priority should be to ensure that they finish in the top four, which they are currently trailing by two points. With Rooney back in good goalscoring form it should fill them with confidence coming into this one, but Southampton are sure to be well organised and tough to break down, so it may be another one where the Red Devils supporters have to patient.
And the visitors do come into this with renewed confidence having won their last two matches in convincing fashion. An easy success against Watford served as a morale booster, while an early opening goal settled any potential nerves three days later as they beat West Bromwich Albion for a result which moved them back into the top half. It turned out to be a very good day for the club all round as they announced the signing of prolific Queens Park Rangers striker Charlie Austin.
Since getting his Football League break with Swindon Town in 2010, Austin has consistently found the net and so his acquisition could lift the Saints into a strong position in the table over the final months of the season should he receive the quality service he needs. At £4m he looks to be a bargain, and certainly gives the club an array of striking options. They are likely to play on the break here, but will fancy their chances of a second straight win at Old Trafford.
Ashley Young begins a long period out with a serious groin injury, and he joins Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marcos Rojo, Michael Carrick and Phil Jones.
Southampton are likely to be without Graziano Pelle, but Austin should be given his debut whether it be from the start or from the bench.
Last Meeting: Southampton produced a masterclass in defending on their way to a 1-0 victory in January 2015 that lifted them up to third in the Premier League table. The hosts did not even manage a single shot on target throughout as they lost to a 69th minute goal from Dusan Tadic, who turned the ball in calmly after Graziano Pelle had been denied by the inside of a post.
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