Robin van Persie scores a hattrick against Southampton in 2012/13
Manchester United travel to Southampton this evening, looking for what would be a fifth successive win over fourth placed Southampton. Ronald Koeman has made a great start to his career on the south coast and, as we reach the halfway point of the season, are serious contenders for a Champions League place. Having said that, Southampton have lost the previous two matches – a 3-0 thumping from Manchester City and a tight 1-0 defeat away at Arsenal – and Koeman will be looking to snatch back third spot with a win over United.
United have faced some tricky ties away at Southampton. During the mid-90s, United lost 3-1 at The Dell when Sir Alex Ferguson blamed the invisible grey strip and of course the quite ridiculous 6-3 hammering a season later with Eyal Berkovic’s celebration resembling an erratic drunkard at a wedding. Since that day in 1996, Southampton have only beaten United twice at The Dell/St Marys – once in 2001 (with the league title already wrapped up) and in early 2003/04, when James Beattie scored a late header.
We have a great view from the opposition today with the great grandson of a former Southampton captain! Russell Carter’s great grandfather, George Carter, was the skipper of Southampton – when the club was called St Mary’s and we caught up over the impact of Ronald Koeman, how good Pelle can become and that bloody 6-3 defeat from 1996! You can follow Russell on Twitter @RussellCarter2.
1) What have you made so far of the season and the impact of Ronald Koeman?
The season has obviously been great for us so far. After losing the heart of last years’ side it was important to get the right manager in to continue the progress the club has made in recent years and Koeman is proving to be an inspired choice. He obviously brings massive experience of the game at the highest level and that helps to convince prospective signings that we’re still a club that intends on going places. People say that we haven’t played the top sides yet and we are now starting to come undone against the likes of City and Arsenal but no team makes it into December in 3rd place without having had a decent season.
2) Honestly now – following the departure of Manuel Pochettino and a number of star players, how did you think you would get on this season?
Initially it was worrying and very disappointing but then the replacements started arriving and they brought an awful lot of new potential. It was just a bit depressing thinking about starting to build a whole new team again which can obviously take a long time. But I didn’t ever share the levels of pessimism of those who had us down for relegation. To be fair though, 3rd place at this stage is something I would never have predicted.
3) Pelle has hit the ground running. How would you describe him as a player and how many goals can he hit this season?
It shouldn’t really surprise anyone how well he is doing. When a manager brings in a player he has worked with for some time at their last club he obviously knows exactly what they are all about and his goal scoring record was phenomenal at Feyenoord. He’s clearly great in the air but technically very good too creating chances in the same way Lambert did as well as being an expert finisher. I’m looking forward to seeing how he combines with Jay Rodriguez whenever that chance arises. How many goals can we expect from him? Well the second half of the season will be harder for him as he’s no longer an ‘unknown’ but 20 would be a fantastic first season in English football.
4) Who will win the title and where do you think you will finish?
I think the hype around Chelsea has been slightly over the top and although they are obviously a brilliant side I don’t think they have that Mourinho consistency nailed yet. I think City are a better team and are only 3 points behind having had a so so start to the season. So I think City will win it and although I expect top four to be beyond Saints this time, 5th is very achievable.
5) Tell us a bit about Tadic and some of the other summer signings? Can you see Koeman investing in January? If so – where do you need to strengthen?
Overall the key thing has been that the players that have been brought in seem to be perfect replacements for those going out. People concentrated on what was lost but didn’t realise that the ones coming in would actually be upgrades to some extent. It was a brilliant summer of business by the club.
Tadic is a really talented playmaker. and a perfect replacement for Lallana in so many ways. Doesn’t have masses of pace but doesn’t need it either. Probably doesn’t work as hard as Lallana did but that will hopefully come. Seems to be very left footed which again might be an area for improvement but such a threat with his left he can create chances all over the place. I think he’ll be an excellent signing for Southampton football club.
I was also really pleased to see Forster join, we’ve had some luck making signings from Scottish sides lately and so many of his team mates last and present seem to hold him in such high regard.
Bertrand was another clever signing and it is an example of how Southampton are such a great club for players that perhaps haven’t had much of a chance at the biggest clubs to come and progress at.
In terms of areas for improvement, I just can’t really pick an area of the team that is a weakness at the moment. We need a bit more strength in depth but then most clubs could probably say that. We don’t need to panic buy so I’d rather see the club wait and buy in the summer.
6) What have you made of United so far this season and in particular the last month?
United have massively improved in the last month and are becoming a major force again. They should start tearing sides apart with the attacking players they have now, particularly when the injuries subside. I think they’ll fall short in the title race but 3rd is a real possibility.
7) Does it worry you that you’ve lost the previous two fixtures to Manchester City and Arsenal? How do you think it will go Monday?
The first of the three tough games in a row against City was very disappointing and they looked well short of the standard they were up against. The Arsenal game was a different story though and we competed with them really well that day. I think the players were a bit overawed by City and hardly anyone did themselves justice. But it’s understandable with that sort if spotlight new to so many of the players. If the players perform like they did at the Emirates in terms if confidence on the ball and belief they deserve to be where they are then I think they will get a result. My prediction is a 1-1 draw.
8) what is your favourite Southampton vs. Manchester United memory and the United player you most admired?
Let’s face it there are quite a few good memories of Manchester United games for Southampton fans. My favourite has to be the 6-3 at the Dell and specifically Le Tissier’s audacious lob. Cantona at his very best would have been very proud if that! The United player I’ve admired the most would have to be Ronaldo, a sensational talent.
9)Tell us a bit about who your Great Granddad is
My great granddad George Carter was the first ever captain of Southampton FC (then called St Marys). The club was formed around the local church and as a PE teacher he was obviously considered to be captain material so was given the armband. He then captained the side for many years through their ascent into the football league and earliest FA cup campaigns. He then went on to manage the reserve team so had a long association with the club. His achievements in that team though were trumped by the tricky Brazilian winger they had playing called Charles Miller who would leave to return to Brazil taking the rules of the game and some balls with him. The rest of course is history and he’s still idolised in Brazil today.
10) Give us your all time Saints xi, with gaffer and three subs.
All time xi sticking to players from our generation is:
Subs: Tim flowers, Berkowicz, Crouch
Mgr: Gordon Strachan