Man United v. Southampton: View from the opposition

Robin van Persie took two goals sharply to secure United’s win in December.

On Sunday afternoon, Manchester United take on Southampton at Old Trafford, looking to repeat the result (if not the performance) from the reverse fixture in December. United are unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions, while the Saints recovered from some tough losses and give a fitting end to their hugely impressive 2014. We’re joined by Southampton fan and blogger Russell, who’s kindly given us some more thoughts on his side going into Sunday’s fixture. Russell provided tremendous insight to our Southampton away preview last month, and his thoughts below are similarly illuminating. You can find him on Twitter here.

How would you sum up the games since our match at the start of December?

Losing to Burnley and Sheffield United in the next two games was concerning and everyone said the ‘bubble’ had burst. But a great result against Everton seemed to turn it back round and we haven’t looked back since. Sometimes one bit of luck can change everything and another own goal against us by Everton might just have been that. Winning comfortably against Arsenal was the highlight though.

What happened in the 1-0 defeat to Burnley and also the League Cup defeat to Sheffield United? 

Sheffield United played well and deserved it while we were unlucky against Burnley, missing a penalty at 0-0. It was disappointing to go out of the league cup in the quarter finals as we don’t get to many semi-finals but they are doing quite well in league one and away from home anything can happen in a cup tie. Those games took us to 6 without a win and 5 straight defeats so it was a disappointing time. We were never going to maintain our early season form all year though so if that’s our blip over with then we’ve done pretty well.

Do you think you will finish in a Champions League spot?

I think it will be a step too far. Europa league qualification should be realistic and that would be an amazing achievement for Koeman in his first season. If we can add a good FA cup run that would be the icing on the cake.

Who are the main targets you’ve been linked to in the January transfer window?

We’ve signed Eljero Elia, another winger, from Werder Bremen and Koeman sounded very positive about the signing. He’s a Dutch international and a good addition with the news that Rodriguez is still a way off returning. Apparently he has had disciplinary problems in the past and has been likened to Mario Balotelli but I’m confident Koeman knows what he is doing.

There are stories that we will bid £32 million for Quintero from Porto but I think that could be a little far fetched even with money still available from our summer sales. I like that we are linked with that sort of player now though, it makes it seem a very long time ago that we were down in the 3rd tier of English football. It shows how far we’ve come.

Tell us a bit about the youngsters who are breaking through at present.

James Ward-Prowse is still progressing and looks like a superb prospect. Matt Targett is the one making advances into the first team recently having started against Chelsea in the 1-1 draw. Having said that he will struggle to displace Bertrand from the side at left back any time soon.  Lloyd Isgrove is another promising winger/midfielder who I expect will do well. Sam McQueen is a local lad who has just signed a new contract and again I expect will have a good career. The academy seems to get better and better, which is so great to see.

What is your favourite memory from playing United at Old Trafford?

There haven’t been many, most of our successes against United have been at home. I do remember winning on penalties in the FA cup back in the early 90s with Tim Flowers saving the final kick from a young Ryan Giggs.

Although he would have been missing due to the African Cup of Nations – how big a player is Sadio Mane for you?

Mane is actually injured but Senegal have decided to call him up anyway so either way he would have been missing on Sunday. He’s been excellent so far this season with 5 goals including strikes against Arsenal and Chelsea. He’s also only 22 so could be a big player for us for a long time. But hopefully with the signing of Elia his absence won’t be felt too much and many premier league teams will be losing players to the cup of nations, you just accept that when signing African players.

Chelsea and City are neck and neck – can United spoil the party?

I don’t think so. Those recent 3 draws suggest they will still drop too many points. Next season could be a different story for United though. I still think City will win the title, they’re just so strong and Aguero takes them a cut above Chelsea and Manchester United at the moment.

Who is the greatest Southampton player you’ve ever seen?

Definitely Le Tissier, such a rare talent.  He was slow and didn’t exactly work hard but always seemed to do something incredible. People talk about whether he should have moved and made more of his talent but I doubt a bigger club would have suited him, Southampton let him do things his own way and it worked!

All-Time Favourite Southampton XI?

Niemi; Bridge, Lundekvam, Monkou, Dodd; Oakley, Svensson, Lallana; Le Tissier; Beattie, Wallace.
Subs: Tim Flowers, Berkovic, Crouch.
Manager: Gordon Strachan.

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