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Southampton will punish Manchester United if visitors’ profligacy continues

18 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Southampton will punish Manchester United if visitors’ profligacy continues

Louis van Gaal's side must be clinical at St Mary's if they are to avoid a third successive defeat away from home

The control that Louis van Gaal demands his players play with has been conspicuously absent during Manchester United’s last two away matches.

On both occasions – against Swansea in the Premier League last month and PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Tuesday – his side took the lead before conspiring to lose the match.

That is a source of mild embarrassment for a man who overtly stresses the importance of maximising possession and minimising errors.

The midweek game was, at least, a significant improvement on last month’s visit to the Liberty Stadium.

There, his side were tactically outwitted, impotent in attack and generous in defence.

But against the Dutch champions, United played their most enterprising football of the season.

Anthony Martial’s speed and intelligent runs in behind the defence stretched the play, while Memphis Depay and Ashley Young were dynamic on the wings.

But the team remains too profligate in front of goal and their backline, while well organised, is still liable to costly lapses.

Van Gaal, then, has much to consider for the trip to Southampton on Sunday.

While the team has been strengthened by the return of David De Gea, the cruel injury to Luke Shaw is a significant loss.

Not only has the left-back been in superb form, but his absence also gives the United boss another selection dilemma.

He must decide whether to move Daley Blind – impressive at centre-half alongside the ever-improving Chris Smalling – to left-back or directly replace the England international with Marcos Rojo.

Blind moved into Shaw’s position against PSV and, while the Dutchman created the opener, it was a positional error from Rojo on the inside that contributed to the home side’s winner.

Ronald Koeman – Van Gaal’s compatriot, one-time protégé and now alleged foe – is astute enough to exploit these weaknesses this weekend.

While the Saints have endured a mixed start to the season – accumulating just six points from five games – they did record a comfortable 3-0 win over Norwich in their previous encounter at St Mary’s and are 21/10 to secure only a second win over the 20-time league champions at the stadium.

Striker Graziano Pelle, who has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances at the ground, is 6/1 to open the scoring and 5/2 to score at any point.

Despite not getting on, relations between Koeman and Van Gaal last season – on the touchline, at least – were cordial.

There was very little between the pair on the pitch, either, with Southampton winning at Old Trafford after United had earlier triumphed in the reverse fixture.

The visitors were unimpressive that night, but battled to what was one of only six wins on the road all season and are 11/8 to record their second away win of this campaign.

Robin van Persie scored twice in that game, but the goal-scoring burden is on another Dutchman this time around.

And even though Memphis is yet to score in five top-flight appearances, he has found the net three times in the Champions League, including a brilliant opener against his former club last time out.

The United No. 7 is 12/1 to score first in a victory for his side.

Opening the scoring, of course, has not been a problem for United.

Doing so in the second-half, however, has, with the Red Devils yet to register after the interval in any away league game so far.

They are 14/5 to arrest that run by finding the net in each half against the South Coast club.

Van Gaal’s side are third with 10 points, which is five more than they had at this stage 12 months ago.

But their steady – if very unspectacular – progress will continue to be undermined if previous weaknesses are not addressed.

Koeman’s talented side are 12/1 to follow the example set by Swansea and PSV by winning from behind.

A significant improvement is required, then, if United are to avoid a third successive away defeat.

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