Manchester United make the trip down to the South Coast on Monday evening to face a Southampton side whose impressive early season form has stuttered since suffering back to back defeats against Arsenal and Manchester City. The Red’s go into the game themselves on the back of four straight victories, a fifth would see United leapfrog their opponents into third place in the league.
The big news ahead of the game is that Wayne Rooney has recovered from the knock that kept him out of action on Tuesday night against Stoke City and he will be available for selection. Rafael Da Silva will also make up part of the squad that will face Ronald Koeman’s side and Jonny Evans may also be available again for selection for the first time since September. Here’s how United could line up on Monday night:
David De Gea of course. United’s number one just seems to get better week by week and United had him to thank again for the three points against Stoke City. The Spaniard will be on a high after being voted the clubs official player of the month this week for the second consecutive time.
With both Rafael and Jonny Evans now available the manager will be glad to have the chance to have a variety of options to choose from at the St Mary’s Stadium. Antonio Valencia has been solid whilst filling in at right-back and will expect to continue in that role despite Rafael’s return from injury. Ashley Young has also done an admirable job in the left-back position, the Englishman was arguably man of the match on Tuesday night against Stoke City and his last gasp goal-line clearance helped secure a vital three points.
Since returning from injury Marcos Rojo has been in great form in the heart of the United defence, his determination and composure on the ball make him a brilliant asset and he will continue in the heart of the defence. Alongside the Argentine I also fully expect Chris Smalling to get the nod again, the defender has improved dramatically since the Manchester Derby and had a fantastic game against Stoke City. Finally, I expect Louis Van Gaal to deploy a third central defender in this game in a similar tactical ploy to that at The Emirates a few weeks ago. If the manager does indeed opt for this approach then Tyler Blackett may well find himself within the starting XI.
Michael Carrick will be one of the first names on the team sheet and he will play a vital part on Monday night in helping shield the United defence. The midfielders form has been very pleasing since his return from injury. Alongside the Englishman there is also no reason to suggest that Maroune Fellaini won’t continue in the side. The previously heavily criticised ex-Evertonian has turned his Old Trafford career around, performing to the standard we saw him play down on Merseyside and scoring another vital goal in United’s last encounter.
In front of the midfield pair i’m expecting to see Ander Herrera get the nod. The summer signing did brilliantly when brought on in the win against Hull City and impressed again on Tuesday night. I feel he will be favoured ahead of Juan Mata as a result of his work rate and defensive qualities and Mata may be required from the bench in a ploy to chance the game if necessary. Both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia will be used to create the width from the wing-back positions.
With Wayne Rooney returning from injury the club captain will almost certainly go back into the starting XI. The number ten’s presence was missing in Tuesday night’s narrow victory against Mark Hughes’s side and hopefully he can continue with the great form he was showing before his minor lay-off. Alongside Rooney the manager has a big decision on his hands as this is the first time all four strikers have been fit and available for selection. I have a feeling Van Gaal will however go with the option of Robin Van Persie. It is evident the admiration the manager feels for his fellow countryman and the Dutchman’s good link-up play may be required when operating with a predominantly three man midfield.
Predicted Starting XI:
Smalling, Rojo, Blackett;
Rooney, Van Persie.