In the final match of 2017, the under-performing Southampton visit Old Trafford and both teams will be hoping to add a shine to less than successful festive periods at this stage.
There’s an opportunity to put faith back in their respective fan bases with solid performances for José Mourinho and Mauricio Pellegrino yet this season is unlikely to be too prosperous for either side.
It’s going to be a battle to say the least.
Kick-off: 17:30 (GMT) Saturday
Location: Old Trafford
Referee: Craig Pawson
Position: 14th (19 points)
Last 5 games: LDLLD
Top scorer: Charlie Austin (6)
- Charlie Austin; violent conduct (1 game remaining)
- Ryan Bertrand; hamstring (day to day)
- Cédric Soares; ankle (2 weeks remaining)
Errors from goalkeeper Fraser Forster have consistently let the side down and thus he position could be in doubt.
Playmaker Dušan Tadić (who scored a winner at Old Trafford in 2015) may return to the team after being benched last time out along with the experienced Steven Davis in the middle.
Due to the congested fixture list, it is expected other changes will be made through rotation.
Switching between a 3-4-3 and 4-3-2-1 formation, the lack of consistency in their lineup has been part of their downfall.
Whether it be Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini or Shane Long leading the line, a consistent focal point hasn’t yet been found and thus goals have been hard to come by.
The dangerous set-pieces from midfielder James Ward-Prowse, gruelling work by Mario Lemina and silky feet from Sofiane Boufal can cause trouble for any team but the losses of key men over the years has now began to take its toll.
In his press conference, Pellegrino described United as “powerful” but believed that at this time his team must concentrate more on themselves.
Most importantly, however, the lucrative £75m departure of Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool which almost happened in the summer for a cheaper and suspected lower price has left the team is more disarray as despite him being at the club this campaign so far, he has barely featured compared to the last campaign and is not expected to in this encounter. His place at centre-back was deputised by fellow Dutchman and summer signing Wesley Hoedt and Maya Yoshida along with Jack Stephens who has shone at times but played at full-back recently.
The Red Devils
Pressure is on the team after such disappointing performances in the last 3 outings.
With the always speculation-heavy January transfer window looms, some players may intrigued as to their importance of position in Mourinho’s plans with “deadwood” being the word referenced as of late.
Youngsters such as Josh Bouhi, Zak Dearnley, Angel Gomes, Callum Gribbin, Demetri Mitchell, Matthew Olosunde and Ro-Shaun Williams trainer with the squad in the build-up for the match.
- Eric Bailly; ankle (3 months remaining)
- Michael Carrick; heart (unknown)
- Matteo Darmian; knock (back in training)
- Marouane Fellaini; knee (2 weeks remaining)
- Marcos Rojo; accumulation of yellow cards (1 game remaining)
- Chris Smalling; groin (day to day)
- Antonio Valencia; hamstring (2 weeks remaining)
With a similar congested fixture list, rotation is also expected with prioritised cup competitions nearing.
The back line has been subject to change many times this campaign and could see more alteration.
The partnership up front of Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimović may continue after praise from Mourinho.
Last 5 meetings: WDWWL
Reverse fixture: 0-1
- United have had a goal in added time in each of their last 3 games
- Southampton are without a win in their last 11 games and have only 2 wins since they last met, as well as 1 away win all season (to the then rock bottom Crystal Palace) with their only other league win so far coming at home to West Ham United early in the season
- United are now on their worst run of the season, in the period in which they had their best run last season
- Southampton have won 2 of their last 3 games at Old Trafford having won 0 in their previous 19
Enjoy the match!