MANCHESTER UNITED welcome Southampton to Old Trafford for Monday Night Football. James Cantrill (@) shares his thoughts on the fixture.
Manchester United vs Southampton | Monday 13th July 2020, 20:00 | Sky Sports
The last match of gameweek 35 sees Manchester United welcome Southampton to Old Trafford. The Red Devils bid for a Champions League spot was bolstered over the weekend as both Chelsea and Leicester were defeated, which means their fate now rests in their own hands. A win on Monday night would see United climb up to third.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have been in scintillating form since the restart; five victories, 16 scored and only three conceded. Their 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Thursday now means they are unbeaten in 17 matches and if they can emulate this title-challenging form next season they certainly represent value to be crowned 20/21 champions at 17/2 (Betfair).
United face a Southampton side that come into this clash with their tails up. The Saints are now mathematically safe following a three-match unbeaten run, which features an impressive 1-0 victory over Manchester City.
Team news and tactics
No fresh injuries for United means that Solskjaer could name an unchanged side for the fifth Premier League game in a row. They currently have an almost entirely fit squad, with only Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe sidelined with injuries.
This means that we should free to enjoy the exhilarating attacking quartet of; Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood. The likes of which have been almost untouchable, scoring all but one of Man Utd’s post resumption Premier League goals.
There was a lot of speculation as to how Solskjaer would utilise both Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes prior to the Frenchman returning to full fitness and the key to it seems to be Nemanja Matić.
The big Serb is a pivotal cog in the Red Devils midfield; in possession he drops in amongst the centre halves, which in turn allows Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka to get high and wide, Pogba to dictate the play and the attacking quartet have the licence to do just that; attack.
Southampton remain without the likes of Sofiane Boufal, Yan Valery, Nathan Tella and Moussa Djenepo and defender Jannik Vestergaard faces a late fitness test. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg returned from injury as a substitute in the Saints midweek draw with Everton. He will be in contention with Oriol Romeu for a start at Old Trafford alongside James Ward-Prowse in centre midfield.
Aside from the potential return of Hojbjerg and Shane Long for Che Adams up front, Southampton should name an unchanged XI.
A principle aspect of Ralph Hasenhüttl tenure as Southampton boss has been their high press, the likes of which caused no end of issues for their most recent opponents Everton. It’s also a ploy that Manchester United had great difficulty in dealing with in the reverse fixture and something I expect they’ll struggle to come to grips with again.
United’s fragility at the back can not be overlooked (despite a lot of bookies doing just that) and I expect Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf will not be able to contain the Saints front two when they inevitably get exposed to them.
Both Teams To Score (1/1 Betfred)
Despite singing United’s praises, they are far from invincible and like previously eluded to their defensive fragility could be exploited.
The last time United failed to score was during a 0-0 draw with Wolves, 15 games ago. Since the resumption they have averaged an Expected Goals (xG) output of 2.3. Meanwhile, Southampton have scored in all but one of their behind closed doors games, averaging an xG of 1.4.
Betfred are currently offering the best price for Both Teams To Score at evens.
Southampton +0.25 Asian Handicap (4/1 Unibet)
The Saints are unbeaten in three and were unlucky to come away from Merseyside with just a point. They had an xG of 2.30 – their highest behind closed doors – and missed a penalty.
They also boast an impressive recent record against sides in the top five, winning three out of four of their last league games against them, beating the likes of Leicester, Chelsea and Man City and losing to Liverpool.
It’s also worth noting that Southampton are fifth in the away table, taking 27 points from a possible 51. This is a stark contrast to their position in the home table; 19th with just 17 points. Since Premier League football resumed, no side has won more than the Saints' tally of seven points on the road!
All of which bodes well in relation to this tip as if Southampton avoid defeat the bet is a winner!
The most tantalising aspect of this bet, however, is the price. In a somewhat similar game on Saturday, Sheffield United were priced at 5/1 to beat Chelsea and I think the bookies are been equally reckless and naïve with their pricing here. While Manchester United are without doubt the stronger of the sides, I don’t think the price is justified.
Che Adams Anytime Goalscorer (13/2 Betfred)
Although it is his strike partner Danny Ings that is just four goals behind Jamie Vardy in the race for the Golden Boot, I am opting for Che Adams to be amongst the goals in this clash. Again, at 13/2 (Betfred) this is a bit of a price play.
The ex-Birmingham man scored the only goal recently in a very similar game versus Man City. Despite that been his first goal in his maiden PL campaign, I expect him to finish with a flurry as he looks to nail down a regular spot in the starting XI. Since getting the nod over Long in attack, he’s averaged three shots per-game. Prior to that, in his cameo vs Watford, he had the highest xG of anybody on the pitch.
I’d expect Adans to grab the opportunity with both hands if he starts at the Theatre of Dreams and his raw pace and quality will certainly be enough to trouble the Manchester United back four.
The only danger with this angle is the fact he’s only lasted the full 90 minutes once this season. In his two most recent starts, he was subbed after 70 minutes on both occasions.