Southampton v Man Utd (PL 2015-16)

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After the defeat and the horrific injury to Luke Shaw on our return to Champions League football, this is already a week most of us would rather put behind us but it ends with a trip to Southampton who have always provided us with a stern test – even before they got pretty good and we started to become pretty rubbish.

Indeed, they beat us 1-0 at Old Trafford at the very start of this year.

Overall, though, we do tend to come away from St Mary’s with a point or three (2003 was the last time they beat us here in the League).

LvG has a few decisions to make for this one, though.

Our defence has started to look much improved on recent seasons but Blind remains unconvincing for me in central defence and the loss of Shaw (who started the season brilliantly) is a tough one to take. Rojo came on in midweek to replace Shaw and looks to be the obvious choice to resume this afternoon but he’s another who doesn’t come close to ticking all the boxes.

Midfield is starting to look a bit more like it when we remember that the goal we want to approach is the opponent’s, not our own.

Attack remains a little threadbare although Rooney looks set to return following the minor injury which has kept him sidelined for our last two matches.

One thing that is exciting, however, is the Martial/Memphis duo. They’ve only just started to play alongside each other but I see big things ahead for these two.

Against PSV in midweek there was even a moment of movement an interplay between the two that took me right back to the days of the telepathic duo – Cole and Yorke.

As for today, I expect Southampton to get at us. With our team in some disarray it would appear to be as good a time as any to be playing Manchester United.

What we will be looking for is that habit of bouncing back from disappointments which has served us so well in the past.

Man Utd v Liverpool (PL 2015-16)

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After Liverpool “did the double” over us during the Moyes season, we got our own back last season and won this fixture 3-0.

Going into this match, there do seem to be quite a few question marks over key players.

At this point it is uncertain whether or not De Gea will make his first appearance of the season, it’s uncertain whether or not the new guy Martial will make his debut and it does appear to be the case that Rooney may well miss out with a hamstring strain.

Liverpool, of course, having already seen Suarez and Sterling go in successive summers now have Sturridge back in training but this match would seem to have arrived too soon for him to put a bit of bite back into what has been a pretty toothless start for Liverpool (just two goals scored in four matches).

Of course, the Champions League matches aside, our own form in front of goal hasn’t been much to write home about and LvG does appear to have left himself with few options.

As always, anything can happen in games against our most bitter rivals and it might go against everything and prove to be a goal-fest but I can’t help but feel that both teams’ lack of firepower will be telling.

Swansea v Man Utd (PL 2015-16)

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Since Swansea’s arrival in the Premier League in 2011 they’ve provided us with 16 points but last season saw everything turn on its head as they beat us 2-1 both home and away so as far as I’m concerned we’re all square now and today we can get back to normal service.

We, of course, enjoyed a confidence-boosting night in Belgium in midweek as we thumped Club Brugge 4-0 thanks largely to a Wayne Rooney hat-trick which is hopefully the start of a proper run of goals for him.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit like one in and one out as Hernandez suffered an absolute mare against Club Brugge and I think the players let him take the penalty in that game in order to give him a confidence-boosting “easy” chance but he made an absolute mess of it.

It’s all a far cry from the player Sir Alex signed five years ago who was scoring without even knowing it at times as goals went in off his face, the back of his head and his backside (probably) and it now looks like the end of the road at United for our Little Pea.

As for this game today, well, Swansea have been in pretty robust form so far this season although the form of their 2-2 draw against Chelsea is a little hard to ascertain now as Chelsea clearly have a few problems in this early part of the season and you’d have to say that we represent their sternest test of the season so far on that basis.

If we get it right today then we should be winning this one but I’d like to see Rooney string a few decent games together against Premier League opposition before getting too carried away with what happened at Brugge the other night.

I suspect today will be a close game but a reversal of last season’s scorelines would be nice.

Man Utd v Newcastle (PL 2015-16)

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Our Premier League displays so far this season have been somewhat underwhelming but something quite amazing happened during our Champions League match against Brugge in midweek when Memphis Depay lit up Old Trafford with the kind of Champions League debut we hadn’t seen since… well… probably Wayne Rooney’s all those years ago and whilst Wayne if now huffing and puffing around the pitch looking a million miles away from that precocious teenage talent, all eyes are surely going to be on the new kid from here on in.

It seems a huge burden to put on a young player who’s only just arrived but, hair and elbows (that’s Fellaini, by the way) aside, it’s hard to see where else our goals are going to come from at the moment.

Fortunately, we play a side this afternoon that have just once at Old Trafford in the last hundred years or something (and that was the season where Moyes was in charge and every record was broken so it doesn’t count… or something).

Newcastle come here today having had a typically indifferent start to the season and have picked up just one point from their opening two matches and our old assistant Steve McClaren looks to have his work cut out there.

Defensively, we’re looking a bit more solid so far and Chris Smalling in particular seems to be growing in stature with every passing game.

I’d expect us to beat Newcastle this afternoon and it wouldn’t surprise me greatly if Rooney finally gets himself on the scoresheet. It’s been ten long matches since he did so so it’s surely only a matter of time.

This fixture has often had plenty of goals in it and you have to go back to 2004 since we last played out a goalless game here but I think today might be a 2-0 win for us.

Match Preview: Man Utd v Tottenham (PL 2015-16)

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And so ourselves and Tottenham have been given the honour of getting the 2015/16 Premier League Season underway and at least one of us will be top of the table by the end of this match! 🙂

We last met Tottenham here just a few months ago during our impressive little purple patch towards the latter end of last season and ran out fairly comfortable 3-0 winners thanks to three first half goals from Fellaini, Carrick and Rooney.

To be honest, at that point, it looked like we could go on to rack up a cricket score but it wasn’t to be and the second half failed to live up to the standards of the first.

Strangely enough, that win bucked a fairly alarming little trend against Spurs as they had won their previous two visits to Old Trafford having not won here for an awful long time.

Generally speaking, this fixture has been three points for us in the bag.

As this is the first game of the season, it would take a brave person to make any kind of prediction though.

Once again, we have gone through something of a transformation over the Summer and there’s literally no saying how we measure up at this stage.

I’m obviously hoping that we come out all guns blazing but quite what those guns are I’m not too certain at the moment. The good news is that those three who scored against Tottenham just a few months ago are still here.

Whilst we have had a couple of 0-0 bore draws against Spurs in recent years, this match does generally produce a few goals so I’m going to bank on that happening again.

Match Preview: Man Utd v Sunderland (PL 2014-15)

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Sunderland have been proving to be stubborn opponents for us in recent seasons and whilst we have only lost once against them (at the end of last season when I’m convinced we threw the points so as to avoid the Europa League), they held us to a draw earlier this season and our victories against them have usually been by solitary goals.

It has to be said, however, that despite their fairly lowly position in the league, few teams have beaten them by a considerable margin – the aberration being, of course, their 8-0 defeat against Southampton which is quite inexplicable.

As for us, well, we remain largely unconvincing especially in front of goal but perhaps the news that Van Persie is going to be out for a while might, in an odd way, prove helpful.

Van Persie has looked a shadow of the player who joined us a few seasons ago ever since Fergie’s retirement but everyone knows the quality can’t have simply disappeared and so he continues to get picked despite his goal output dropping considerably since his debut season.

LvG will now have to look at other options and I, for one, would prefer to see Rooney moved back into his best position which is higher up the field where he has more chance of grabbing a goal or two.

And from what I’ve seen this season so far I think I’d prefer to see Wilson given the nod over Falcao which is something I didn’t think I’d ever say…

Anyway, onto this game.

Despite everything, we remain a tough nut to crack at Old Trafford and when the teams towards the foot of the table have visited this season, we have generally sent them home with nothing and I see no reason why today should be any different although I do think it could well be another close call.

Match Preview: Swansea v Man Utd (PL 2014-15)

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Louis van Gaal had barely got his feet under the desk at Manchester United when Swansea came to Old Trafford very early in the season and gave him an indication of the size of the job he had in front of him by beating us 2-1.

Of course, this was back in the days when we basically had no defenders and LvG thought it would be a good time to introduce a defensive system which we were completely unaccustomed to.

When David Moyes took us to Swansea in one of his very first games in charge, we beat them 4-1 and optimism flowed like the River Tawe.

So… you never can tell…

What we do know is that despite looking nothing like Manchester United and despite playing nothing like Manchester United, we are currently sitting in third in the Premier League and still very much alive in the FA Cup.

The season will never be regarded as a classic no matter what happens from here on in but we’re generally heading in the right direction again.

This one is similar to our recent matches in that it’s a fixture we really should be winning but, knowing us this season, we’ll make it as difficult as possible for ourselves.

To be fair, Swansea aren’t sitting in ninth position because they’re pushovers and many of their matches this season have been close affairs and defeats at home have generally been by a single goal. The obvious exception to this was when Chelsea came here a few weeks ago and stuffed them 5-0 after going 1-0 ahead within seconds of the game starting to throw any plans Garry Monk had of containing them out of the window before he’d even taken to his seat.

I doubt very much we’ll be seeing five goals here today as I think a low-scoring affair is very much on the cards.

Match Preview: Man Utd v Burnley (PL 2014-15)

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At around this time of the season we’re more accustomed to playing the likes of Barcelona on a Wednesday night but that’s hopefully something we’ll get back to next season – for now, it’s Burnley.

Oh well, at least the colours are similar.

Whilst Burnley might currently be languishing just above the relegation zone, they’ve not been pushovers by any means this season and have lost by the odd goal on a number of occasions and held us to a 0-0 draw when we played them at their place towards the start of the season.

However, I think it’s fair to say that this is the stage of the season when those clubs with the lesser strength in depth can really start to struggle and just one win against fellow strugglers QPR since the turn of the year suggests that this could be the case with Burnley.

Our defeat against Southampton here the other week aside, our own form has been very good of late and that remains our only defeat in fourteen Premier League matches.

The draw over the weekend against West Ham highlighted the problems we’ve been experiencing in front of goal for a lot of this season.

So far, Falcao looks nothing like a ÂŁ50 million player and I do think that he might be struggling to adapt to the more physical nature of the Premier League and he did seem to get knocked over quite easily against West Ham. No doubt in Spain he’d have been awarded a dozen free kicks but here in England, it’s all part and parcel of the game.

Of course, it might all be a master plan by LvG to get Falcao on the cheap at the end of the season because I do believe that he will be a much better player next season and could be worth a punt at a significantly reduced price.

RvP continues to blow mostly cold and the odd flash of quality aside, looks nothing like the player who arrived here and scored every time he got the ball a couple of seasons ago.

Wayne Rooney appears to be being used in every position but those where he’s likely to score goals and I do think that that’s been to our detriment.

James Wilson hasn’t disappointed when used but LvG’s reluctance to put too heavy a burden on his young shoulders is perhaps understandable.

Fortunately, we now have something we haven’t really had for a number of seasons and that is midfielders who can score and on several occasions this season, they have pulled something out of the bag for us when the strikers have been faltering – as evidenced by Daley Blind’s last gasp equaliser over the weekend.

I think we’re going to need something similar tonight as I cannot see us thrashing Burnley and although a 2-0 scoreline isn’t out of the question, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a closer scoreline.

Match Preview: West Ham v Man Utd (PL 2014-15)

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After a spell where goals were hard to come by, we have now knocked in six in our last two games, admittedly they were against struggling Leicester and fourth-tier Cambridge but they all count and will have done the confidence of the scorers (five different Manchester United players) no harm whatsoever.

Our opponents today have been having a half-decent season so far and currently sit eighth in the Premier League although their recent form has been patchy with just one win in their last six matches.

Our own record against West Ham is generally very good and it was in 2007 when we last visited them and came home with nothing to show for it.

Wayne Rooney, in particular, seems to enjoy playing against The Hammers and has bagged himself ten goals in our last nine meetings with them.

What is good to see from our point of view is that the injury nightmares that blighted our early season now seem to be largely behind us and LvG has pretty much a full squad to pick from.

The same cannot be said of West Ham and I do believe that the absence of Andy Carroll against a defence which can still have shaky moments will be the source of some disappointment for Sam Allardyce.

I do expect a tough match this afternoon but this remains a fixture we should be winning if we are to claim a top three or four position this season.

I do expect that we’ll need to score at least two goals to take all the points, though.

Match Preview: Man Utd v Leicester (PL 2014-15)

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Few will ever forget our meeting with Leicester early on this season but just in case you’ve repressed the memory in some kind of act of post-traumatic self-preservation, they beat us 5-3 in one of the most ridiculous matches I’ve seen us play since Southampton beat us 6-3 way back in the days when Southampton were more likely to be seen hovering around the relegation zone and not in the top three of the Premier League.

On that occasion, we somewhat bizarrely blamed the grey shirts we were wearing.

In the 5-3 defeat against Leicester, we could offer no such excuses. It was just a poor, poor performance.

It didn’t start that way, though. I was watching the match on TV and when Di Maria put us 2-0 up with little more than a quarter of an hour played, the camera panned to Nigel Pearson who seemed to have a look on his face that said, “What the hell do I do about this?”

He needn’t have worried though because such was our kami-kaze defending at that point that less than a minute later they were back in it at 2-1.

With just under an hour gone, sanity was restored when we went 3-1 up through Herrera and at that stage, all were expecting us to close the game out but this is a new Manchester United, one where no one comes down to the touchline and gives players any instruction and what happened next was simply hellish for anyone associated with Manchester United as we were dismantled time and time again as Leicester knocked in four goals without reply to run out comfortable 5-3 winners.

As high as anyone associated with Leicester might have been on that day, they’ve been made to suffer a lot of lows since and just two points from their next thirteen matches left them rock bottom of the Premier League.

Meanwhile, we finished 2014 strongly and, for a brief period, there were even whispers that we might even get back into the title race but several dropped points in recent matches have surely put paid to any such thing and we now seem to have our work cut out to finish in the top four (or, preferably, top three).

I did mention in the pre-match comments before our FA Cup tie against Cambridge that we appear to have lost our way a little recently.

Defensively, we’re looking slightly less shambolic and have been conceding few goals but this all seems to have come at the cost of attacking intent and some of the old habits from last season are creeping back into our game (sideways and backwards passing, anyone?) and a Manchester United that has forgotten how to attack is an abomination.

However, I like to think that we’ve just had a mid-season lull – every team has a below-par period at some point of the season – and that, unlike last season, we’ll now push on from here until the end of the season.

I think we’ll win today but I think siding with Leicester in the Asian Handicap might be the safest option until United show that they know the way to the opposing goal again…