Out of all the teams in England, Southampton’s record isn’t too bad against a side that’s been so dominant over the last twenty years. However, most of those clashes were in the Premiership and with Saints now languishing in the lower reaches of the Championship, it’s a bit of a different affair and the odds are firmly stacked against them.
These two sides last met in 2005 and it would be fair to say that since then, Southampton’s fortunes have taken a drastic turn for the worst. Once an established top flight side, Saints only just survived last season and this campaign also looks set to be a season of struggle. Under new manager Jan Poortvliet, they’ve dropped into the relegation zone and currently sit in 23rd position. They managed to get a fantastic point at home to Reading in their last game, but other than that their form has been pretty dreadful to say the least and they’ve failed to win since mid-November. However, there have been some memorable games with the Red Devils over the years and Saints fans will be hoping that this will be another to add some gloss to a season that’s been pretty miserable so far.
As for Manchester United, they’ve not quite had the season they may have expected. As it stands they sit 3rd in the table, seven points away from leaders Liverpool although they do have two games in hand. On a lighter note, they were recently crowned World Club Champions and that’s just another extra to the countless trophies that Sir Alex has won over the years. One thing that impresses many people about Ferguson is the fact that while a lot of teams around the top often struggle against lower opposition, United always seem to grind out results. Over the years, while they may have been taken to the odd replay, there’s been no significant giant killings and he’ll be hoping that stays the same here. They were dealt something of a shock after being knocked out by fellow top flight side Portsmouth last season but you’d have to imagine that normal service will be resumed for this campaign and they’ll reach the latter stages again.
Jan Poortvliet could have a few problems heading into this one, with Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Svensson and Wayne Thomas all carrying injuries. Schneiderlin has a chance of featuring, although the other two are almost certainly out. As for Manchester United, they will be without three players with Rio Ferdinand, Carlos Tevez and Patrice Evra all missing. Ferdinand is carrying a knock, Tevez has been given compassionate leave while Evra is still serving his hefty suspension.
To put it bluntly, we don’t think Saints have a chance here. They’ve a young side who’ll give it everything, but whatever team Ferguson picks they should win quite comfortably. There’ll be a lot of fringe players thrown into the United team, but they’ll be good enough to overcome Southampton quite easily – 2-0 Man Utd.