Manchester United boss David Moyes will call for an improved home performance against Southampton today, after a shock 2-1 defeat against West Brom in his side’s last fixture at Old Trafford.
The reigning Premier League champions have been accused of being one-dimensional and over-reliant on the individual brilliance of Wayne Rooney and predatory nature of Robin van Persie this term.
United struggled to break down an organised Baggies side, and have only scored six goals in their last six Premier League games.
The task will not get any easier today, as Southampton’s success so far this term has been based around a combined solidarity at the back. Led by new signing Dejan Lovren, the Saints have only conceded twice all season.
Mauricio Pochettino will set his side out to press high up the pitch and use the likes of Pablo Osvaldo, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana to capitalise on mistakes. As such, United can expect to have plenty of the ball, but not much time on it, and regimented and motivated opponents to break down.
United have resorted to crossing the ball aimlessly more often than Moyes would like this season, and as such the Scottish manager must carefully decide who he plays wide. With Southampton in United faces, certain players could be guilty of coughing up possession too easily.
Adnan Januzaj is the man on everyone’s lips, and the 18-year-old may well get another start after his brace against Sunderland last time out. Nani has been brought back into the fold, but is still regaining his sharpness and needs to work on his final delivery.
There is a real case for the inclusion of Shinji Kagawa, even if the Japan international is forced to play out of position from wide. The former Borussia Dortmund star looks like the creative player that United need, with his close control, clever movement and vision a real bonus.
Kagawa’s potential link-up play with Rooney could be the craft that United need to break down a stubborn opponent, who will prohibit space in their own half.
Southampton manager Pochettino urges his side to pressure opponents, with the likes of Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini likely to be hounded all day by Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin.
As such, someone like Kagawa, who relies on his trickery and movement off the ball, could well be essential in breaking down a well-drilled opponent.
United need three points in the clash to stem the tide of pressure flowing towards David Moyes. They have the players capable of breaking Southampton down, but the south coast side will certainly not make it easy for them.
image: © Marcel Sigg