Many a Manchester United supporter will tell you that they haven’t been THIS eager for the team to grace the football pitch in a while – such was the entertainment provided by Ole Gunnar Solskjær‘s men against Leeds United for the Premier League opener at an Old Trafford that was near capacity last weekend.
My goodness did it feel good to see the near 75,000 strong Old Trafford faithful return once again.
This time around, United take a flight to St. Mary’s for their first away game of the 21/22 Premier League season. It’s of special significance as it’s a chance for United to equal a Premier League record number (27) of away games unbeaten – currently held by Arsenal. Having gone the entire 20/21 season unbeaten on the road, Solskjær and his boys must be laser focussed on continuing that “tradition.”
This fixture last season was an immense thriller, with one Edinson Cavani coming off the bench to help United bring all three points home, scoring a brace against a hard-working Ralph Hassenhuttl side.
The team will want to put on nothing short of a show for our away fans, on the road following United after a very long hiatus due to the pandemic.
Not that I need to remind anyone, but Manchester United put on a dazzling display as they thumped Marcelo Bielsa‘s Leeds United, 5-1, in the opening fixture of the 21/22 Premier League season.
Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes were spectacular in particular, with our Portuguese Magnifico scoring his first hat-trick in Manchester Red and only our second league hat-trick since Sir Alex Ferguson‘s departure from Old Trafford – Anthony Martial‘s 3 goals against Sheffield United in the 19/20 season being the first. Not to be outdone, La Pioche provided 4 assists on a plate for his teammates to put in the back of the net, 2 of them being for his Portuguese teammate.
Mason Greenwood also contributed a lovely goal and I say this with absolutely no disrespect whatsoever but it was such an incredible evening that even Fred got on the scoresheet!
On the other hand, Southampton suffered defeat at the hands of Rafa Benitez‘ Everton, the Spaniard managing his first Premier League game since crossing over from the red half of Merseyside. The scoreline presented suggested a fairly routine win for Everton, with the Toffees coming out 3-1 winners at Goodison Park. However, Hasenhuttl and his players will be wanting to make amends and get their season back on track immediately and who better to do it against than the biggest club in England?
Manchester United have made a fair few developments when it comes to squad availability:
- Jesse Lingard has recovered from COVID and is back available for selection
- Edinson Cavani has completed his isolation period and was seen training with the squad
- Eric Bailly and Amad are back and available following their exploits in the Tokyo Olympics
- (Last but DEFINITELY not least) Raphaël Varane has officially joined United and has gone through several training sessions with the team
The Manchester United fanbase will be extremely eager to see Jadon Sancho start, which is a real possibility for this away day as the winger has had multiple training sessions and may have built the pre-requisite fitness required to start. Furthermore, Raphaël Varane has been spoken of in only rosy words by his new manager although it’s possible he does not start considering Solskjær may want to ease him in. This wouldn’t be a problem however since Victor Lindelöf performed excellently against Leeds United alongside captain Harry Maguire.
From Southampton‘s perspective, they have sold some players over the summer that could’ve been an additional threat for them in this fixture in Ryan Bertrand, Jannik Vestergaard and front man Danny Ings. Crucially, however, they have tied down captain James Ward Prowse to a new contract and as a result, we can nervously look away every time we concede a free kick remotely close to our goal in fear of Ward Prowse scoring his annual goal of the season contender against us.
Southampton have also signed Romaine Perraud, Adam Armstrong, Valentino Livramento and Armando Broja, with Hasenhuttl hoping the quartet can make up for the 3 senior players Southampton sold during the summer transfer window.
Start as we mean to go on
Manchester United had an admittedly average start to the 20/21 campaign and everyone at the club must be hard at work to ensure the tone of the start of their 21/22 campaign remains as positive as it has been since the Leeds triumph.
The team also has the opportunity of equalling a Premier League record, a mouthwatering prospect that will, at least to a tiny degree, assuage the pain emanating from the wound inflicted by Villareal in the Europa League final last season. That, and encouraging the team that they are capable of now competing for the biggest honours on offer to them – the Premier League and the Champions League.
Solskjær’s must instil the mentality in all players that the season will progress game by game and that complacency will be their biggest enemy.
Manage that, and the sky’s the limit for this group of players.
Look at me, talking about taking the season game by game while I have my head in the clouds. Bring on Southampton!