Manchester United will attempt to secure back-to-back Premier League victories when they host Southampton at Old Trafford on Friday night, in their opening home game of the 2016/17 season.
Tonight will mark Jose Mourinho’s first competitive fixture at Old Trafford as United manager, following his appointment as Louis van Gaal’s successor in May.
On the pitch, France international Paul Pogba is expected to make his second debut for the club he departed four-years ago, having re-signed for the Red Devils in a world-record transfer fee of £89m from Juventus earlier in August.
Aside from the arrivals of Pogba and Ibrahimovic, United also signed centre-back Eric Bailly and midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, in a busy summer of incomings.
Mourinho’s side achieved the perfect start to the new campaign on Sunday with a 3-1 win on the South-Coast away to AFC Bournemouth. Goals from Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Ibrahimovic ensured that the visitors picked up maximum points at the Vitality Stadium to top the standings.
The early signs under Mourinho have been encouraging. Victory against Eddie Howe’s Cherries followed an FA Community Shield triumph over Premier League champions Leicester City at Wembley, as the 53-year-old eyes a Premier League title challenge.
Southampton make the journey to the North-West for the televised game sitting in tenth after one fixture. They kick-started their fifth consecutive term in the Premier League with a 1-1 draw with Watford at St Mary’s last Saturday, under the stewardship of new manager, Claude Puel.
Debutant Nathan Redmond preserved a point for Southampton, equalising just shy of the hour to cancel out Etienne Capoue’s ninth-minute goal.
Frenchman Puel, spent four years in his homeland in charge of OGC Nice before taking up the position at Southampton, replacing Ronald Koeman in the managerial post, who left for Everton.
He has already had to cope with the departures of Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle to pastures new, while recruiting subsequent reinforcements, including goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and wide-midfielder Redmond.
The home-grown pair have been joined by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jeremy Pied from Bayern Munich and Nice respectively.
Southampton have claimed three-points on their last two visits to Old Trafford. The most recent win came on January 23, 2016, courtesy of Charlie Austin’s second-half header.
Pogba will be available at Mourinho’s disposal, after serving his one-game suspension which carried over from Juventus, the midfielder will likely earn a starting spot, meaning Ander Herrera or Mata could drop to the substitute’s bench.
Central defender Chris Smalling is available for the hosts again, he too has completed a ban, while Mkhitaryan is pushing for his first Premier League start.
Midfielder Jesse Lingard remains a doubt. The academy graduate missed Sunday’s comfortable win in Dorset through a foot injury.
Captain Jose Fonte could return to the visiting back four. The Southampton skipper missed the stalemate with Watford, due to a late start to pre-season, after helping Portugal win the European Championships in July.
Matthew Targett will remain at left-back, in place of the injured Ryan Bertrand.
Last Season: Manchester United – 5th (66pts): Southampton – 6th (63pts)
League Form: Manchester United – DWLWWW: Southampton – DWWWWD
Last Meeting: Manchester United 0-1 Southampton (January 23, 2016)
Key Men: Manchester United – Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Southampton – Jose Fonte
Shoot Says: Manchester United 2-1 Southampton