By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
Southampton v Manchester United
Sunday 4pm – Sky Sports 1
Whatever signs of encouragement Southampton could have taken from their gutsy display at Manchester City was quickly washed away with defeat at home to Wigan. In a nightmare opening few fixtures for the Saints, that was the game targeted to get some points on the board and the fact they didn’t even come away from the game with a hard luck story or sense of injustice has to be more deflating than Edward Scissorhands on a bouncy castle.
Still though, it’s Manchester United coming to town and if there’s ever an incentive to give an improved showing it’s now. The players have shown their ability, now they need to believe they’re capable of surviving and there’s not many better ways of doing that than beating United.
Beating United isn’t as fanciful as you might think. In being toothless in attack against Everton and then weak in defence against Fulham, they’ve shown a variety of Achilles heels that would give any plucky newly promoted team a glimmer of hope. The absence of Wayne Rooney due to a severed leg only adds to the feeling a shock result is possible, however misguided that logic is.
The good news for United is Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa have settled in very quickly and have already shown signs of forging a good understanding. At the back, never before will Jonny Evans feel so loved. He returns from an ankle injury and he’ll take Michael Carrick’s place at the centre of the United – for want of a better word – ‘defence.’ Sadly, there’s still no cure for Rafael’s defending.
United haven’t impressed so far this season, but that has rarely stopped them from winning. Southampton will most likely perform to type and be the kind of plucky underdogs to cause United problems, but the visitor’s strength in depth will see them to victory in the end.
The ‘I don’t like giving predictions’ prediction: Manchester United to win 2-1 at 13/2