What a magical weekend of FA Cup action the world just witnessed -- unless of course, you happen to be a Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Aston Villa, or Queens Park Rangers supporter. Attention now, though, turns back to the Premier League. Next up for Manchester United is a rare midweek league tie with Southampton at Old Trafford. During the reverse fixture in early September, United trailed the home side 1-2 before Robin van Persie scored two late goals to win the match -- including this one deep into stoppage time to complete his hat-trick (this video was recorded from the vantage point of the away section at St. Mary's):
Form Guide: United enter the midweek top of the table and five points clear of nearest title-contending rival Manchester City. Sir Alex Ferguson's side have collected 56 points thus far from 23 league matches. Currently, they've gone 14 games unbeaten domestically with the most recent result being a 4-1 FA Cup 4th round defeat of Fulham at the weekend.
Team News: The most recent team news update was given last Friday prior to the Fulham tie. During his weekly press conference then, Ferguson indicated that Ashley Young is training and nearing a return. He wasn't ready for the FA Cup tie and it's uncertain if he'll be ready for this league one. Jonny Evans has been a bit more limited in training so he's unlikely to be available. Darren Fletcher is out for the season due to his chronic bowel condition.
Form Guide: Southampton currently sit 15th in the table with 23 points from 23 matches. They are unbeaten in their past 6 league clashes but only one of those have been a win. Their last result was a 0-0 draw two weekends ago against Everton in manager Mauricio Pochettino's first game in charge of the Saints.
Team News: Guly do Prado and Jose Fonte have been ruled out. Adam Lallana is thought to be nearing a return from injury and he could be available for selection.
United: David de Gea is expected in goal while Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are probable in central-defense. Patrice Evra and Rafael are the anticipated full-backs.
In midfield, stalwart Michael Carrick will probably be partnered by Tom Cleverley in the center of the park. Paul Scholes could be in contention while Anderson is most likely in a substitute's role. Out wide, Antonio Valencia and Nani are possible on the right-flank while the latter, Young (if fit), Shinji Kagawa, and Danny Welbeck are possible on the left.
Up front, Robin van Persie is certain to start and he could be partnered by any of Kagawa, Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, or Javier Hernandez (Chicharito)
Southampton: In Pochettino's debut as manager, he didn't make any drastic changes. Artur Boruc was in goal and the back four consisted of Jos Hooiveld, Maya Yoshida, Nathaniel Clyne, and Luke Shaw. It's likely this all remains the same, although the newly signed Vegard Forren -- from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Molde -- may be in contention at center-back.
In central-midfield, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork are expected in a double-pivot while one of Gaston Ramirez, Steven Davis, or Rickie Lambert will be in a central-attacking-midfield role. Out wide, Jason Puncheon is expected on the right while Ramirez or Lallana (if fit enough to start) are possible on the left. Up front, Lambert or Jay Rodriguez will be the No.9.
Pochettino has only been in charge for a single Southampton game and the last club he managed, La Liga side Espanyol, is not one I've seen play much. Therefore, I'm going to refer you to this Michael Cox piece from last week on Pochettino and Southampton and also this statistical blog write-up from WhoScored.com for a makeshift tactical preview.
Here's a nice blurb on Pochettino's preferred tactics from the Cox ESPN Soccernet piece:
"Pochettino's usual style of play -- his heavy pressing ensures the opposition concede possession cheaply in their own half, but his insistence upon one- and two-touch passing means his own players are vulnerable to poor possession play."
This was, perhaps, the most informative part from the WhoScored.com piece:
"Southampton pegged back the Toffees in the first half, with 32% of the play taking place in Everton's defensive third of the pitch and 47% in the middle third. Everton are not used to being put on the back foot to such an extent, but Pochettino clearly had his players in the mindset to press high up the pitch and they did so effectively.
Everton could only manage a pass completion rate of 69.5% in the Southampton game, which was by far their lowest of the season. Furthermore, Everton completed only 77.2% of their passes in their own half; also the worst they have had in a Premier League game this season, just behind their rate of 78.4% against league leaders Manchester United."
KO: 8:00pm GMT, 3:00pm EST | Old Trafford
Live TV: None (U.K.), ESPN2 (U.S.)
Referee: Lee Mason
Odds: Manchester United 2/9, Draw 5/1, Southampton 10/1