Robin van Persie scored a hattrick for Manchester United against Southampton last season
Manchester United will finish the 2013/14 season away at Southampton, as the club come to terms with the fact Champions League football will sadly be missing from the Old Trafford fixture list next term. The last time United failed to qualify for the tournament was indeed back in 1994/95, when Blackburn Rovers pipped United to the title on the final day of the season. Of course, only the Champions qualified twenty years ago and the runners up went into the competitive UEFA Cup.
Much has changed in the past twelve months, with two managers both departing under extremely different circumstances. Sir Alex Ferguson retired from the game having lifted his thirteenth and final league championship, whereas David Moyes was relived of his duties following the woeful 2-0 defeat at Everton. United will want to get this season out of the way and ensure the new manager – which looks likely to be Louis van Gaal – finalised as soon as possible.
Ryan Giggs has stated that Phil Jones will not play in the fixture on Sunday, but the injury isn’t as bad as he first thought. Wayne Rooney should also return in what could be United’s number 11’s last game in a red shirt.
We caught up with Chris who blogs over at the quite humorously named George Weah’s Cousin, where we discussed Adam Lallana’s proposed move to Liverpool, whether or not the Saints will retain Luke Shaw and whether they miss those clashes with cash stricken Pompey! You can follow Chris on Twitter @crstig.
1) Firstly, what is your take on Liverpool’s bid for your club captain Adam Lallana? Will he go,
My gut feeling is that he will go. Will I be disappointed? Of course I will. Do I begrudge him the chance of playing Champion’s League football? Absolutely not. The lad has given us eight years, gone through the tough times with us and contributed massively to our rise back up the leagues. He’s been one of the best players in the Premier League this season, he should be at the highest level.
2) I guess a year ago you would have jumped at the chance to finish one place behind United. How would you sum up your season?
It’s been a supremely enjoyable campaign. We’ve broken pretty much all of our Premier League records and don’t look out of place in the top 8 at all. The scary thing is there have been several games this season which we should have won but didn’t. Couple that with the early season form that dipped off when Wanyama got injured and you wonder just how high we could have finished.
3) Mauricio Pochettino seems to have done wonders at the club. What is your take on him, his approach and also – is he the right man to lead you forward?
Firstly, he is absolutely the right man. To that end it makes it incredibly difficult to keep him. Like half our first team is he the subject of massive speculation about his future. His philosophy and style gives us the fantastic combination of both good results and breathtaking football. I think he has a very big future as a manager and for me losing him would be far more devastating than any of the players!
4) What was the best game you watched this season? And also – what was your worst moment?
The demolition of Newcastle was pretty special, but to win at Anfield, keeping a clean sheet too has to be up there. The worst moment was undoubtedly seeing Jay Rodriguez go down at the Etihad. Everyone knew straight away that it was his season and World Cup dream over.
5) Have you been linked with any players in the summer? Do you think you will hold on to Luke Shaw?
Not been linked with too many coming in as of yet! If you believe the media then we will probably have about 6 players left come August, but the board have reiterated that the club are still looking to progress so who knows. Shaw will be difficult to keep. The kid has a massive future and will be England’s first choice left back for the foreseeable future. I think it could be a testing summer for us.
6) What did you make of the Moyes sacking? Could he have ever turned it around? Would you pluck for Van Gaal or keep Giggsy?
I think there was little option. It seemed pretty clear that your players weren’t giving their best for him. I did feel a little sorry for him though as I think Sir Alex Ferguson knew that your current squad had overachieved last year. Don’t get me wrong it’s should still be a Champions League chasing squad, but looks way behind the likes of Chelsea and Man City.
I certainly wouldn’t appoint Giggs. He has no experience of management and why risk his legend in the perception of the fans? Keep him on the backroom staff and let him develop. Van Gaal would be an interesting appointment though, not my choice. Could be a risk given his turbulent relationships with players.
7) What do you think of the plans to include a potential Southampton ‘B’ team in the football league?
From the point of view of Saints it is extremely frustrating. We are one of the clubs that has invested in their Academy and gives their kids a chance in the first team. What benefit would our classy kids get out of slumming it with the likes of Portsmouth?
The FA should be encouraging the ‘big clubs’ to use their kids more, even if that means implementing a squad rule. Also they should make it against the rules for Premier League clubs to loan players in.
8) Do you miss the clashes with Portsmouth? What do you make of their current situation?
Of course! There is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a South Coast derby. It’s a shame because I think it will be sometime before we meet again (barring a cup draw).
They would never agree of course, but they should consider themselves extremely lucky, Let’s face it, they shouldn’t exist and have got off very lightly to still be playing in the football league. Their current situation sees them steady but League One is likely their ceiling now.
9) Gareth Bale – the most expensive player in the World started out at your club. Did you ever think he would become this good and where do you rate him in regards to best players in the World? Just behind Messi and Ronaldo?
I’d be lying if I said I thought he would go on to be the most expensive player in the world but the potential was certainly there. He’s up there with Messi and Ronaldo now certainly, that goal in the Copa del rey final was something else. Keep your eye on Luke Shaw by the way. Same levels of potential.
10) What would be your all time Southampton Xi? And, what is your favourite memory of playing United?
This is based purely on players I have seen play.
Jason Dodd Dean Richards Michael Svensson Luke Shaw
Morgan Schneiderlin Chris Marsden
Ronnie Ekelund Matthew Le Tissier Adam Lallana
Subs:- Claus Lundekvam, Wayne Bridge, Carlton Palmer, Egil Ostenstad, Hassan Kachloul, Marian Pahars, Dejan Lovren
In terms of playing United, the 3-1 & 6-3 wins are obvious choices, but the win on penalties at Old Trafford has to be up there too. 1992 I think. Sadly I wasn’t born when Saints beat you in the cup final in ’76!