United travel to St Mary’s for a lunchtime Saturday fixture, the dust from defeat to Crystal Palace at home last weekend still hanging in the air. United will be unsettled and at least one forward lighter with permafunk Alexis Sánchez dumped on Inter Milan. Ole Gunnar Solskjær, now also missing Anthony Martial, also has problems at left-back with Luke Shaw potentially out for a few weeks.
Happy days away
In times of recent uncertainty, United have taken solace in their away fixtures — except when things are really bad. Either avoiding Old Trafford under José Mourinho or Solskjær’s side only having a knack for teams which don’t sit back, aways have been a source of fun for United and their following.
The loss to Palace immediately changed the complexion of United’s start to their first full season under Solskjær. Defeat on the road to Southampton and United are scratching around for answers in August.
No. 10 issue
[British politics joke]
Jesse Lingard should probably be given another run behind the forwards at St Mary’s. Solskjær has options in attacking midfield, however, and the temptation to change something will be great.
Palace at home was perhaps the occasion to start Juan Mata and then bring a kid on. Saints away is an opportunity for United to be effective, Lingard linking the play at speed when breaking. United will need Lingard to find form and contribute during the campaign.
James on the left
Another dilemma for Solskjær will be whether to protect Daniel James. James would benefit from United not relying on him too heavily regardless this season.
But the manager might feel removing him from the firing line this weekend may ease the growing - and unwarranted - reputation of James as a winger who dives. Ferguson — fiercely protective over his players — would, more often than not in this situation, start the youngster and let their character shine through silencing the critics.
With Martial out, James better on the left where there’s now an opening, and United counterattacking, it looks worth giving James the chance.
Rashford to show leadership
Marcus Rashford may resemble the closest thing United have to a recognised striker on Saturday and, as such, will be required to lead his side from the front. A flat performance and a missed penalty previously add to Rashford’s pile, but there will be no time to wallow and allow the likes of Mason Greenwood to share his burden. Greenwood will need support to flourish and Rashford may even enjoy the responsibility.
Quiet international break
After Southampton, United return in a fortnight to host Leicester City and will hope their internationals return safely with holes in the team already appearing.
Furthermore, the European transfer window closes on Monday. Bar shipping out any unwanted central defenders who are fit enough to sell, United need the transfer window to close without any late hubbub.
He was our best player today by a mile, he worked his bollocks off and was the one player who looked like he could create something then he makes a mistake trying to push for a winner and it's all on him again— Hoddy (@redhod99) August 24, 2019
The noise around Paul Pogba’s future doesn’t seem loud enough to envisage a transfer of that scale happening over the weekend, and United won’t want to lose their best player at this stage. Solskjær’s squad are woefully short on quality in midfield and have no opportunity to mitigate for Pogba’s exit.
If Pogba is determined to leave hopefully it will be on United’s terms. Much like Cristiano Ronaldo 10 (ten) years ago, Federico Macheda’s winner against Aston Villa doesn’t happen without the exasperated, exasperating, wantaway star digging them out first.