English Premiership

United out to hold off Saints

2015-01-10 11:59
Louis van Gaal (Supplied)
Louis van Gaal (Supplied)

London - Manchester United will attempt to stave off an assault on their third-place position in the Premier League table when they welcome closest pursuers Southampton to Old Trafford on Sunday.

United have gone 10 games without defeat since losing 1-0 at joint-leaders Manchester City on November 2, but they have taken only six points from a possible 12 after drawing three of their last four matches.

It has prevented Louis van Gaal's side from fully exploiting recent slip-ups by co-leaders Chelsea, who they trail by nine points, and has allowed Southampton to close to within one point.

After a run of four straight defeats in late November and early December, including a 2-1 loss in the reverse fixture, Ronald Koeman's side have won three and drawn one of their last four games.

United were fortunate to claim victory at St Mary's last month, with Robin van Persie's brace representing two of the three shots on goal they managed to muster in the 90 minutes.

But United are in much finer fettle than they were a month ago.

Their injury glut has cleared to the extent that Ashley Young (hamstring) is the only player currently unavailable, while the squad was bolstered on Thursday with the eye-catching acquisition of former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

It leaves Van Gaal with an enviable selection dilemma on his hands.

Over the festive period, the Dutchman devised a system that accommodated Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Van Persie and Radamel Falcao, and he must now find a way of fitting Angel di Maria into his team as well.

The Argentine winger made a goal-scoring return from a pelvic injury in United's 2-0 win at third-tier Yeovil Town in the FA Cup third round last weekend and could start against Southampton.

"Angel di Maria has played only 20 minutes and that's because of the match rhythm that I gave," said Van Gaal.

"I have said I have only one injured player (Young), but I don't have 100 percent match-fit players. That's a different thing.

"But of course Di Maria is for example further than Daley Blind or (Marcos) Rojo.

"I have to select the best team and also I have to watch the qualities of Southampton, how I can reduce that quality by my line-up, but also by our game-plan."

Left-back Luke Shaw is expected to overcome an ankle problem and play, while Dutch utility man Blind could make his return from a two-month absence due to a knee injury.

United have taken 25 points from a possible 27 at home since losing to Swansea City on the season's opening weekend, while Southampton have not won at Old Trafford since January 1998.

But Koeman, who fell out with Van Gaal during their time at Ajax, believes that United should not be satisfied with their current position in the table.

"They have great players. It is normal that they will fight for titles, I think. They have to," the Southampton coach told his pre-match press conference.

"How you can spend that money, how you can sign that kind of players and not be fighting to win titles?

"Everything is up to Man United. They have a very successful coach, they have great players, they have money, they have got great public (fans), great stadium. It is normal that you win titles."

Koeman could hand a debut to skilful Dutch winger Eljero Elia, who signed on loan from Werder Bremen last month, while right-back Nathaniel Clyne and midfielder Jack Cork have both overcome ankle injuries.

However, centre-back Maya Yoshida is on international duty with Japan and winger Sadio Mane has been named in Senegal's squad for the Africa Cup of Nations, despite currently suffering from a calf problem.


What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

29 October 2016
Sunderland v Arsenal, Stadium of Light 13:30
Manchester United v Burnley, Old Trafford 16:00
Middlesbrough v Bournemouth, Riverside Stadium 16:00
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City, The Hawthorns 16:00
Watford v Hull City, Vicarage Road 16:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City, White Hart Lane 16:00
Crystal Palace v Liverpool, Selhurst Park 18:30
30 October 2016
Everton v West Ham United, Goodison Park 15:30
Southampton v Chelsea, St. Mary's Stadium 18:00
31 October 2016
Stoke City v Swansea City, Britannia Stadium 22:00
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team

Who will claim the Premier League title at the end of the 2016/17 season?

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


With the Absa Premiership in full swing, who will be crowned champions when all is said and done? Will Mamelodi Sundowns defend their title? Or can Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates or Bidvest Wits mount a serious challenge? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.