Third meet fourth in the Premier League on today when Manchester United host Southampton at Old Trafford.
Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United are unbeaten in 10 league games and have only Chelsea and Manchester City above them in the table. After an unconvincing start to life under their new manager, the Red Devils have since gelled into an impressive outfit, slowly integrating a host of expensive signings.
And there will be yet another new face at Old Trafford after goalkeeper Victor Valdes signed an 18-month deal with United on Friday.
“It is a real honour to sign for Manchester United,” Valdes said. “I would like to thank Louis van Gaal and the club for allowing me to do my rehabilitation and to train with the team at the training complex. From my short time here I can already see this is a very special club.
“I worked with Louis van Gaal during my time at FC Barcelona and to have the opportunity to work with him here at Manchester United is a dream come true.”
The signing of the experienced Spanish ‘keeper makes it six high-profile players to join the club since the end of last season – with last summer’s spending spree totaling close to £150m – and the manager of Sunday’s opposition feels United should now be challenging for major honours.
“They have great players so it’s normal that they will fight for titles,” Southampton coach Ronald Koeman said. “They have to. How you can spend that money, how can you sign that kind of players, and not be fighting to win titles?
“Everything is up to Manchester United. They have a very successful coach, they have great players, they have money, they have great fans, a great stadium. It’s normal that you win titles.”
United have been boosted by the return to training of Luke Shaw, Rafael, Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind this week, which Van Gaal hopes will signal the end of United’s injury crisis.
“I have to tell you that we have only one injured player, Ashley Young, it’s unbelievable!” the Dutch manager revealed. “Another point is, of course, match rhythm, but everybody is healthy and can play except Young.”
Young will be out for a month after picking up a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Stoke City.
The Saints are in even better form than their hosts. Koeman’s Southampton went unbeaten over Christmas, picking up three wins and a draw over the fortnight – including impressive victories over Arsenal and Everton and a hard-fought point against Chelsea. It was a timely return to form for the Saints, whose terrific early season form was almost derailed by four defeats on the bounce prior to the festive fixture pile-up.
Only Chelsea and Manchester City have scored more goals than the south coast club, and since no club in the division has a better defensive record, the stage is set for Southampton to finally end their Old Trafford hoodoo. The Saints have never won a Premier League game at the Theatre of Dreams, picking up just two draws in 15 visits, and conceding 40 goals while managing just 14 in reply.
It ended 2-1 to United when these teams met in early December, with Robin van Persie scoring a brace. Both meetings between the clubs last season ended 1-1.
Source: ScoreMobile FC