The Old Trafford crowd should be in buoyant mood for the visit of Southampton this weekend after Wayne Rooney’s late winner secured the north-west bragging rights in their clash with bitter rivals Liverpool last weekend.
The 1-0 win on Merseyside extended United’s unbeaten run to four games and eased the pressure on manager Louis van Gaal, who has led his side back to within touching distance of the top four after their December blip.
2016 has also seen a return to form for Wayne Rooney, who has netted in all of his side’s matches in the calendar year; another goal this weekend will mark the first time the England man has scored in five games in a row in all competitions since 2010.
Despite the upturn in fortunes in recent weeks, Van Gaal’s side need to add to their goal threat at home; they have failed to score in the first-half in any of their past nine matches at Old Trafford.
Southampton’s win at Old Trafford last season was their first in the red half of Manchester since 1988, and Ronald Koeman will be hoping to inspire his side to another famous triumph this time around.
It won’t be easy for the Saints, however, who are struggling to replicate last season’s success; they are seven places and 12 points worse off than they were at the same stage in 2014/15. However, they have won their last two, scoring five and conceding none in the process.
A positive omen for Koeman is that all five previous games between himself and his Dutch counterpart Louis van Gaal have ended in away wins; Southampton could rise to seventh if that particular run continues this weekend.
The hosts have been dealt a fresh injury blow with the news that Ashley Young is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines as he needs groin surgery. Michael Carrick, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones – all of whom watched the win at Anfield from the away end – are unavailable, as is Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Southampton could hand a debut to new £4 million frontman Charlie Austin, with the ex-QPR striker set to deputise for Graziano Pelle if the Italian fails to overcome a knee problem. Jay Rodriguez and Florian Gardos are both out for the visitors.
League Position: Manchester United – 5th (37 pts); Southampton – 10th (30 pts)
Last Meeting: Southampton 2-3 Manchester United (September 20, 2015)
Form: Manchester United – LLDWDW; Southampton – LWLLWW
Key Players: Manchester United – Wayne Rooney; Southampton – Shane Long
Shoot Says: Manchester United 2-1 Southampton