Jose Mourinho has started very well with his new Manchester United team; beginning by lifting the Community Shield before defeating Bournemouth on the opening Premier League weekend. However, all eyes will remain on the Portuguese tactician when Man United take on Southampton at Old Trafford on Friday night as he is in charge of his first competitive home fixture.
Man United played well enough in the opening two matches to get wins, but the team is understandably still a work in progress. Though a free-flowing and highly satisfactory standard of football is likely to arrive in the coming weeks, Mourinho must still grab three points with his currently developing side against the unpleasant Southampton, who won at Old Trafford last year thanks to the Charlie Austin’s late strike.
The Red Devils are without a home win against the Saints in the previous three years, having scored only once in the process. Jose Mourinho knows that he is expected to impress the fans at the Theatre of Dreams, something that won’t be easy against the renowned opponent.
As earlier mentioned, however, recent form bodes well for United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic found the net on his debut in the EPL while Henrikh Mkhitaryan came on as a substitute late in the second half.
Mkhitaryan replaced Juan Mata at Bournemouth, who managed a goal following Mourinho’s surprise decision to start the Spaniard which suggests he may well stay at the club after all and in spite of the supposed tensions he has faced with his manager in the past.
Still, Mkhitaryan is likely to move into the first eleven in the near future and despite a goal last week, Mata would probably be the man to make way.
The most expensive player in the world – Paul Pogba, has a chance of making his debut in front of the home fans, but it’s unrealistic to expect him from the referee’s first whistle. Mourinho will probably stick to Herrera and Fellaini in the middle of the park for this game, but that may well also change as the season develops.
The former Chelsea manager can also count on Chris Smalling now that the defender has served his one-game suspension carried over from last season, and the English international could play in partnership with Eric Bailly who impressed on his debut at the Vitality stadium last week.
Ryan Bertrand is unavailable for the visitors, so Mourinho can perhaps target the wings to put constant pressure on Southampton’s expected vulnerability at full-back. Anthony Martial’s performance against Bournemouth was excellent which spells danger for the Saints; the Frenchman recorded two assists and looked a real handful.
Mata or Mkhitaryan on the right flank could also be extremely dangerous for Claude Puel’s side, so the Saints will have to work hard to avoid defeat at Old Trafford.
The fans will be anxious to see the likes of Pogba, Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, and Mourinho as well, so the new additions could be under pressure. It’s not easy to play in front over 75,000 spectators that expect a win, but the Special One has a lot of experience with big clubs and will certainly prepare his team well.
Here is the possible lineup that Mourinho could deploy on Friday:
4-2-3-1: De Gea – Valencia (Darmian), Bailly, Smalling (Blind), Shaw – Herrera, Fellaini (Pogba) – Mata (Mkhitaryan), Rooney, Martial – Ibrahimovic