Match Preview: Saints @ United

In the first Friday night kick off of the season, Manchester United host Southampton. The Saints have found some success against their hosts in recent seasons but the new look United will be looking to restore the ominous fortress status to the Theatre of Dreams in their first home game of the season & second game in league play.

With another week of training under their belts, the fans are brooding with excitement to see the team build on last weekend’s opening day victory. Hopefully a clean sheet is in the cards for today’s game. The battle must be won in midfield as most on the pitch battles tend to be and I’m still waiting to see who emerges as the leader in United’s midfield. It’s an area that definitely demands a leadership role, something that we witnessed with Schweinsteiger when he was fit, but unfortunately does not seem to be included in the new gaffer’s plans. Paul Pogba is expected to see some playing time today & should be warmly welcomed back by the fans. I don’t expect any changes to the starting eleven that took all the points vs Bournemouth but it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see some changes. Especially if that means adding more speed to United’s attack, with options such as Lingard, Mkhtaryan & Rashford.

Killer instinct in front of goal is the order of the day. That means a quicker game in terms of play & decision making from an overall team point of view but I’m also speaking directly about Wayne Rooney & Marouane Fellaini. Take a page out of Daley Blind’s book if necessary. Just be smarter with the ball and play with purpose. This will hopefully put United on the path to a more fluent offensive style with loads of combination & link up play among the front six. Add to that the likes of Luke Shaw & Antonio Valencia flying up the flanks & we should be in for an entertaining night at Old Trafford. Credit to Southampton if they find an effective strategy to thwart United but I sincerely, hope not.

 

Starting XI: De Gea, Valencia, Bailley, Blind, Shaw, Herrera, Mata, Rooney, Martial, Fellaini, Zlatan.

 

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Match Report: Bournemouth v Manchester United

One match. Three points, three goals and no new injury concerns meant the new era at Manchester United was off to a successful start. Credit to the new coach & squad response. My predicted squad selection was off by three players with Herrera, Mata & Fellaini getting the nod over an injured Lingard, Carrick & Mkhitaryan.

It was far from pretty in the first forty five but a fortunate break saw United take a 1-0 lead into the half thanks to special Juan Mata, sticking with the play and capitalizing on a gift of a back pass from Simon Francis. Defensively, the team looked relatively solid and Eric Bailey continues to be a revelation in the back four. He helps me sleep better at night & I’m sure de Gea shares my sentiment. Daley Blind also had himself a game and rarely got exposed for his lack of speed. His high football IQ bails him out of a lot a problems and partnering with Bailey doesn’t hurt either. Our wing backs were able to fly down the flanks and hopefully that will continue as the season progresses.

The midfield is still a bit too slow in attack for my liking but I also expect that to get remedied over time. There are more than enough speed options for the new gaffer and he should be able to figure out the best system for the squad. Everything from Captain Wayne & the bruiser Fellaini needs to be quicker & more fluent. My fantasy team is riding on it. While Martial did appear frustrated at times, he still had a lot of influence on the game & I hope he improves on his form from last season. Zlatan is Zlatan and he commands such a presence on the pitch. A quicker playing midfield should more than capable of supplying the big swede with the right service for a goal rush over the course of the season. Both Rooney & Zlatan opened the scoring accounts their season debuts which should yield positive returns if you believe in stats like momentum and attackers scoring goals to build form & confidence.

Except for the one lapse on defense that Bournemouth made us pay for, the overall team performance left a smile on my face. A truly nice feeling after the Moyes nightmare & brief tour with the LVG army. We seem a better defensive unit & this should hopefully kick start our offense. Everything should get better as the season runs its course & we should be back in the top 3 come season end. i.e. if the new manager has benefited from any soul searching that he endured during his coaching hiatus.