Key Battles: Manchester United vs Southampton


Aug 2, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Manchester United defender Phil Jones (4) collides with Real Madrid defender Daniel Carvajal (15) during the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United play hosts to Ronald Koeman’s Southampton on Sunday in what promises to be an absorbing clash, and more importantly, a clash which will have a significant effect on the positions of both the sides in the Premier League table.

The St Mary’s outfit sit just one point behind United and victory will see them overtake United into that third spot. On the other hand, a victory for the Red Devils would see them go four points clear off the south-coast club and give them some necessary breathing space.

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Their cause has been boosted by the return of players with boss Louis van Gaal confirming the injury count is down to just one player. That is 29 year-old Ashley Young so for the first time ever this season the Dutchman will have a plethora of players to choose from for his preferred starting eleven.

The last time these two met, United edged past Southampton with Robin Van Persie scoring in each half and sealing the affair in United’s favour. And now ahead with a highly entertaining encounter expected we have singled out three key battles which could be instrumental in deciding the outcome of this fixture.

#1 Radamel Falcao vs José Fonte

Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao has finally got his Premier League campaign kicking after enduring a rather difficult start in the north-west of England. It looks like he’s got into the rhythm and has started finding the back of the net on a regular basis, the latest being his clever finish against Stoke which helped United salvage a draw.

Jose Fonte on the other hand has enjoyed a thrilling season with Southampton which resulted in him getting his first Argentina cap. After the departure of Croatian international Dejan Lovren, Fonte had to pick up the baton and assume responsibility – which he has done so far this season.

On Sunday, the Argentine is going to be pitted against a fellow South American, and by the look of it, it feels like we are in for an enticing combat. Fonte’s physical presence against Falcao’s technical ability will be worth looking out for, and it will be interesting to see who eventually emerges as a winner.

#2 Michael Carrick vs Victor Wanayama

If their is one player who has been silently contributing in the best way to the side and acting as an absolute rock in the center of the park it’s Michael Carrick. The 33-year old has been in sublime form for Van Gaal’s men this season and is showing no signs of regression, often acting as a glue to an uninspiring midfield at times this season, pulling off some absolutely jaw-dropping passes in the process.

Wanyama has played a similar role in Southampton’s fold this term, however, he hasn’t been as influential as Carrick has. His tall and strong physique makes him a difficult man to contain in set piece situations, and it also paves the way for him to act like an unshakable and formidable figure at the heart of Southampton’s midfield. His prominence in the centre of the park has been phenomenal and a superfluity of passes makes him an even bigger threat.

It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this industrial yet corporeal battle.

Key stat – Carrick is still unbeaten in every game he’s played this season

#3 Phil Jones vs Graziano Pellé

After the departure of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic the responsibility of marshaling the defence fell on the shoulders of Phil Jones. The England defender has experienced an injury ravaged tenure at the Old Trafford club so far, however, he’s also proven to be United’s best bet in the heart of United’s defence when fully fit. Averaging a total of 2.2 tackles and 6.4 clearances per game the 22-year old has proven his ability as a top defender and Van Gaal will now be hoping he stays fit.

But on Sunday he is likely to be tested and what a match up it should be. Signed from the Eridivese, Pellé sealed an £8.8 million move to Southampton and even though he didn’t arrive with a massive reputation, he’s taken the league by storm with his knack of scoring goals at regular intervals. After scoring 12 goals in all competitions this season, Pellé has tormented defenders across the League with his prototypical style of play. He’s not one of the most fastest strikers around, although his predatory finishing and swift agility coupled with a tall and muscular physique make him a dangerous prospect to deal with. Jones’ dedication will be pitted against Pellé’s conviction in front of goal and rest assured, this will be the most engaging battle of the day.

Next: Manchster United down to one injury