It’s a long old journey from the south coast to the north-west, but it’s been well worth the trip for Southampton fans on the last two occasions, with a pair of 1-0 wins to celebrate on the trip home.
But Louis van Gaal’s tepid Manchester United are a thing of the past. Under Jose Mourinho’s new star-studded squad, the Red Devils notched up exciting wins over champions Leicester and Bournemouth.
So, with a new manager in the Old Trafford dugout, exciting new buys for both sides and a history of meetings sealed in dramatic fashion, here’s what to expect as Man United welcome the Saints for Friday Night Football under the lights.
History says we’ll see a tight victory
The last four meetings between this pair have seen the winners prevail by just a single goal, and it’s been the away fans who’ve enjoyed the spoils on each occasion, with a pair of 1-0 away wins for Saints, while Man United triumphed 2-1 and 3-2 at St Mary’s.
If this one’s been a goalless bore draw at the 65-minute mark, we’d recommend resisting the temptation to switch over to Big Brother. The winner of all four meetings has come within the final 25 minutes of the game.
For those looking to bet in-play, there looks to be plenty of value in backing either side to win if it’s all-square heading into the latter stages.
Saints’ creative newboys shouldn’t be overlooked
While the Red Devils have made the more high-profile signings, the Saints have a pair of exciting new arrivals with the quality to make the difference in a tight encounter.
The fleet-footed Nathan Redmond impressed during his time at Norwich, and the 22-year-old was United’s tormentor-in-chief at Old Trafford last season, providing the assist for Cameron Jerome’s goal as the Canaries won in M16 for the first time since 1989.
It’s 4/1 the former Birmingham City man gets himself on the scoresheet tomorrow, while dynamic midfield signing from Bayern Munich, Pierre-Emile Holbjerg could be a key provider for the visitors’ strikeforce.
The visitors will go out and attack
While many opposition sides come to Old Trafford and park the 18-wheel lorry with the hopes of snatching a goal at the other end, that’s just not how new Southampton boss Claude Puet operates.
His Nice side played an attacking 4-3-3 system wherever they went last season, including away trips to the likes of Marseille and PSG. For better or worse, his sides are unfailingly attacking – and that should make for an excellent game.
With United netting three at Dean Court last weekend, they also don’t seem edgy about playing attacking football, so backing over 3.5 goals in this one at 9/4 could prove outstanding value.
The return of the prodigal son
As if all that weren’t enough, there’s also the small matter of world-record signing Paul Pogba, whose return to Old Trafford has overshadowed even Grant Mitchell’s EastEnders comeback this summer.
The dynamic midfielder is set for a rousing reception (more on that shortly), and with a reputation for performing on the biggest stage, Man United’s prodigal son is likely to relish the spotlight of the footballing world being upon him.
It’s 9/4 the 23-year-old marks his return with a goal tomorrow night – and having netted 10 times for Juventus last season, there are sure to be plenty of Red Devils fans jumping on the Frenchman enjoying a perfect homecoming.
United’s fans could play a big part
The ‘Red Army’ and Mourinho hit it off quickly, with the Portuguese boss describing the 7,000 fans who cheered the team home to a friendly victory at Wigan as “unbelievable”, adding “the support was like it was a crucial Premier League match”.
When the south coast outfit step out on Friday night, they’ll be up against a packed Old Trafford in buoyant mood as their new boss takes charge of his first home game.
If United can get a goal early, they could well be carried to victory by the backing of the crowd. Southampton’s first job will be to create some nerves in the Old Trafford crowd.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing