We have to bounce back with a win against Southampton
Inconsistency struck again for Manchester United against Crystal Palace, just when the fans were starting to grow more in confidence with this group of players. Naturally, as is the fickle nature of football nowadays, we’re now already in the midst of a crisis as a result according to many.
Of course that isn’t the case. The perception now, however, will be that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is once again under pressure to get results and ‘turn it around’. An assignment down on the south coast to face Southampton isn’t the easiest way for him to get a win and appease certain fans and pundits, but it’s what he’s faced with to steady the ship before the international break.
As depressingly knee-jerk opinions on Manchester United have grown to become, it does feel extra necessary for the Reds to pick up three points at St Mary’s on Saturday lunchtime. We’ve seen how the players seem to dwindle under periods of sustained pressure over the course of weeks; nipping a bad run in the bud early doors will help them reset before a testing run after the internationals.
Thin up top
That task isn’t made any easier with the current state of the squad in key areas. We all kind of expected Alexis Sanchez to follow Romelu Lukaku out of the door of United’s forward department before the European window closed, in spite of protestations otherwise from Solskjaer in recent weeks.
It’s probably the right move in the grand scheme of things for the club, and most certainly is for a player in desperate need of a clean slate but it did render us short in the forward areas, even with everyone fit. The fact that Anthony Martial has picked up a knock in the lead up to the move is a wholly typical occurrence that really highlights that lack of depth that has materialised.
Trusting the youth
In fairness, it’s looking like the United boss is following through on his word in trusting the young players coming through. He’s making a concerted attempt to clear the decks of the old guard and an unwanted culture within the club. It has maybe come earlier than he expected and wanted but he now has to hand Mason Greenwood more responsibility, even if it is a lot of pressure on the young striker.
In spite of Martial’s absence, there are admittedly a few options with regards to reshuffling the forward line against Southampton. Whether those players suit the games we have coming up is another thing but then again, the team selections so far haven’t really paid heed to that anyway.
It is arguable that Solskjaer simply got the selection wrong against Palace. As was suggested on this website, and in a few other places in the United online sphere, we should probably have anticipated needed to break a Crystal Palace defence rather than expecting our quick players to get in behind their back line.
Imagination and invention was pretty sparse last weekend with the players selected, hence it taking until the dying stages for Daniel James to find a goal. Southampton will probably be a bit more adventurous at home, though, so that could be a problem for another day.
Some changes to the side will be forced upon Solskjaer. Others should happen because form and impact dictates them. Along with Martial’s confirmed absence, Luke Shaw is also definitely out so we can expect Ashley Young to step in to the side at left back. The other change that seems inevitable is giving Jesse Lingard a bench-warming brief from the start.
The England man is woefully out of form, his first touch is off and he simply isn’t having an impact on games. That could be partly attributed to the last weekend’s fixture not being suited to his pressing and counter attacking contributions but even if this game is more open, it could be wise to give him time out of the firing line.
Reshuffle behind Rashford
So who does Solskjaer task with putting Southampton away? Marcus Rashford surely gets the nod up top rather than on the left, leaving his usual position vacant. Daniel James switched over to the left against Crystal Palace and did look more threatening so that could be the solution there.
In terms of filling Lingard’s position and deciding who takes up the right attacking berth, that’s harder to predict. Both Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira have made all of the squads so far which suggests that they remain ahead of Angel Gomes in the pecking order. There’s a chance that both could play a part but the inclusion of Mason Greenwood would make for a more dynamic solution. He has featured on the right in every appearance so far – giving him a start there would leave one of Mata or Pereira to make things happen from the number ten spot without putting too much pressure on Greenwood’s shoulders.
Whichever option Solskjaer goes for, he will be relying heavily on the team that starts. The options off the bench are very thin which could cause a problem if we find ourselves in trouble. Luckily, Southampton themselves have injury concerns up top. Nathan Redmond limped off against Fulham in the Carabao Cup in the week and is unlikely to feature whilst Moussa Djenepo and Michael Obafemi are both big doubts, too.
In similar way to the way the last season’s initial run of games went, a pre-international break will calm the panic threatening to spread about Manchester United’s prospects this season. Anything else and we should prepare for a long couple of weeks of catastrophising.
Score Prediction: Southampton 0-2 Manchester United