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Starting XI: Southampton vs. Manchester United

Can United win on the road for the first time in nearly six months?

Manchester United v Southampton - Premier League
He’s back, baby!
Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

It’s a lunchtime kickoff for Manchester United on Saturday. After an up-and-down start to the 2019/20 Premier League season, the Reds hope to head into the first international break on a high with three points at St. Mary’s. Southampton sit in the relegation zone — yeah, yeah, it’s early — so this is a match that United should win. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday.

(1) The new-look Manchester United defense showed more than a few cracks in their armor last weekend against Crystal Palace. In the first half, Jeffrey Schlupp skied above Victor Lindelöf, nodding the ball on for the surging Jordan Ayew. The Palace forward got inside the curiously-positioned (and that’s putting it nicely) Harry Maguire and coolly slotted his shot past David De Gea. After an opening day clean sheet, the United backline seems to grow shakier each week. And that includes DDG, who added another howler to his growing list of game-changing miscues.

(2) If the defense manages to right the ship at St. Mary’s, they’ll do so without Luke Shaw. The 24-year-old reigning Player of the Year will miss up to five weeks after injuring his hamstring against Palace. Solskjaer tapped Ashley Young when Shaw came off, signaling the club captain as the left back’s likely long-term replacement. Diogo Dalot might have been another option, but he’s apparently also injured and unavailable to deputize. Young’s fill-in performance wasn’t always pretty, but he mostly held his own against the dangerous Wilfried Zaha.

(3) Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there. Anthony Martial ended last weekend’s loss limping around Old Trafford as his teammates desperately chased a second goal. With no subs remaining, the Frenchman gutted it out. United sent Martial for scans on his thigh afterward and the club has now confirmed that he’ll be unavailable for this weekend’s Southampton trip. On a happier note, at least Martial’s injury didn’t scuttle Alexis Sánchez’s loan to Inter Milan.

(4) Daniel James, who many regarded as one for the future, scored his second goal of the young season last weekend. His curling effort briefly drew the Reds level and once again demonstrated the danger he poses when given a little space. Opponents are quickly learning that, too — James has already been fouled 11 times this season, the most in the Premier League. On the downside, though, he picked up another yellow card for diving. Which, at least in this case, looked highly questionable. Solskjaer, recognizing that James risks a reputation for simulation, leapt to the youngster’s defense: “He’s not that type of player. He keeps running that quickly and, if you look at the video, there was contact.”

(5) After a disappointing home defeat last time out, Manchester United hit the road needing full points this weekend. Southampton have won only 15 of their last 58 home league matches. A fortress St. Mary’s is not. Of course, United aren’t exactly road warriors either. The Reds haven’t won away from Old Trafford since that miraculous second-leg in Paris last March. Something’s got to give on Saturday — or we could just be in for a bore draw.

(6) It wasn’t too long ago that Southampton finished in the top eight of the Premier League four seasons in a row. But, when Ralph Hasenhuttl replaced Mark Hughes last December, he had his work cut out for him just to keep the Saints up. The former RB Leipzig boss, colorfully called the “Alpine Klopp,” arrested Southampton’s slide and guided them to safety in sixteenth place. A good start, but still some ways off the highs of the Pochettino era.

(7) Hasenhuttl preaches quick counterattacks, vertical passes, and intelligent pressing. When it works, this direct approach cuts open retreating and unprepared defenses. The Austrian really started putting his stamp on the side this summer, shipping out Charlie Austin, Steven Davis, Matt Targett, and many others. To replace them, Southampton signed Moussa Djenepo (£14 million), Che Adams (£15 million), and Danny Ings (£18 million). Ings scored seven goals for the club on loan last season, impressing Hasenhuttl enough to make the arrangement permanent.

(8) These new signings joined a side not exactly bereft of talent. Nathan Redmond flourished under Hasenhuttl, scoring six goals and notching four assists after the new manager’s arrival. He also completed 92 take-ons, good for third-best in the Premier League. Other building blocks already on the roster include Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Sofiane Boufal, and Yan Valery.

(9) But, after suffering an ankle injury in Tuesday’s League Cup win over Fulham, Redmond will likely miss this weekend’s match. That would be a huge boost for Manchester United.

(10) Southampton stumbled out of the gates this season with two disheartening losses. On opening day, the Saints traveled to Turf Moor and were mugged by Burnley 3-0. The scoreline probably flattered the hosts, but Southampton looked pretty poor, too. Next, they dropped a tough-luck loss to Liverpool. No shame in that. Finally, last weekend, they defeated Brighton 2-0 behind goals from Djenepo and Redmond. It also marked their first clean sheet since March. Southampton made it two in a row — wins and clean sheets — with Tuesday’s 1-0 cup result at Fulham.

(11) The final word from Ole on the importance of Saturday’s match:

The last two results were disappointments because at Wolverhampton you feel we deserved to win and [against Crystal Palace] we deserved to win. But you don’t always get what you deserve in football. We have to make sure we go to Southampton with the bit between our teeth and play better, score goals, and win the game.