By Imran Kardar
Louis van Gaal will face his old enemy Ronald Koeman this weekend as Manchester United travel to St. Mary’s to face off with Southampton. It’s safe to say that Southampton were more than a handful for United last season as they beat United in the first fixture and probably unduly lost the return fixture. Ronald Koeman had the measure of Van Gaal in both the matches. But since then Southampton have lost a bit of steam and a few key players one of whom made the journey to Old Trafford over the summer. Morgan Schneiderlin was a midfield linchpin for Southampton last season. His tackling stats were right up there with the best in the premier league. He guarded their defense and broke up play on numerous occasions. However, Southampton will have to make do without him and this season they seem to have lost some influence and steel in the middle.
United will have a reshaped defense with the injury to Luke Shaw, who could possibly be out for the season. When he sustained his injury in the midweek game at PSV Marcos Rojo was brought on and partnered with Smalling in the centre and Blind pushed to left back. It didn’t work with United conceding two goals and the defense looking shaky. If I were LVG I would not disturb the partnership of Smalling and Blind and put Rojo at left back. He has played their before and should do well again this season. In the midfield Schneiderlin is expected to play along with Carrick. As Schweinsteiger has played a lot of minutes in the last two games he could be given a bit of a rest and moved to the bench to make way for Carrick. Upfront is where the dilemma lies for LVG. Rooney is expected to be available for this game after recovering from a minor hamstring problem. But should he be played as the lone striker or in the No.10 spot behind the striker? I would like to see Rooney at No.10 just due to the fact that he links the midfield to the strikers beautifully. With Rooney at No.10 it should mean that Martial gets another start. The kid is young and needs time to settle in but having been thrown right in to the mix by LVG he needs to perform and pass the test. And he has all the attributes to do so! These two should be flanked by Memphis and Mata, though I got a sneaky feeling that Young will start instead of Memphis.
Formation should remain the same with LVG favoring the 4-2-3-1 this season. This could however be turned in to a 4-3-3 to add another body in the midfield and look to take advantage of high level of possession. All in all, with Arsenal and Manchester City losing their games and dropping points this is an ideal opportunity for United to close the gap at the top. I sincerely hope they capitalize on the faltering of other teams around them and win the game. It’s a hard one to predict but I’ll go with a 1-0 victory for United! Glory, Glory, Man United!