TWO under pressure managers meet in Saturday evening's televised Premier League match-up. Mark Hughes's struggling Southampton side welcome Jose Mourinho's out-of-sorts Manchester United to St Mary's.
Southampton v Manchester United | Saturday 1st December 2018, 17:30 | BT Sport
Mark Hughes is coming under increased pressure with each passing week. The moaning Welshman has seen his side fail to win in their last nine Premier League fixtures, and the Saints still have some tricky fixtures to come in the next month or so.
It’s tough to see Hughes riding it out -quotes of 1/8 on him being the Next Manager To Leave his club are probably fair.
Southampton are somewhat of a strange side for the data geeks; not only from this season but stretching back a couple of years now. They historically record a high volume of shots, have a decent Expected Goals ratio and rack up plenty of deep completions.
Saints have an xG for figure of 1.6 per-game, double that of their actual output. Profligate finishing has been their problem – as much as I’m not a fan of Hughes, I do feel for him a little bit.
The south coast club should get chances again here as they’re coming up against a Manchester United side that are defensively suspect. Even last season under Jose Mourinho, the Red Devils we’re giving up ample opportunities to their opponents – it was only the brilliance of David De Gea that meant they finished as high as they did.
United are conceding on average 1.6 goals per-game, a figure that mirrors their xG reading. Given that, coupled with Southampton’s propensity to create decent scoring opportunities, it’s understandable that United are trading around the even-money mark. That price will draw the punters in; it looks like a quote that has been manufactured largely on the underlying performance data metrics.
Three angles of attack for St Mary's
With both sides unconvincing at the back and pressure for a result on the two managers, I can see goals at both ends. Both Teams To Score has been chalked up at 4/5 (Betfred) and that’s fair.
Southampton have scored in their last three games, whilst United’s 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace last weekend was their first blank in nine previous Premier League outings. The visitors have bagged in every away game across all competitions.
I’m also going to delve into the Correct Score market. We can get 17/2 with SkyBet for the guests to triumph 2-1 and that holds plenty of appeal – five of United’s 10 wins this season have come by this scoreline, a high ratio. When they win, it’s usually by the odd goal and this looks like the most obvious scoreline.
Venturing into the Cards market, I was surprised to see Unibet go 13/2 on Luke Shaw to be carded. He’s been booked 5 times this season – more than any other United player. So why is he bigger than 16 of his teammates in this market? It’s a bizarre conundrum that I can’t get my head around.
I’m not complaining though, it’s a standout price with the firm and he’s as short as 9/4 elsewhere. He’s going back to his former club here and could get some stick from the home faithful. Southampton like to get the ball wide, their full-backs overlap and they can cause Shaw a few problems.