Wednesday 30th January 2013 kick-off 20.00pm (BST)
By Sean McGuire
Before their relegation from the top flight, newly promoted Saints have been a bane in the side of Manchester United ever since the Premier League began, and we must not forget this fact as we go into what, on paper, should be an easy three points for the Reds.
In April 1996 Manchester United needed a win against Southampton at the Dell to all but seal their third league title in four years. The Reds were on a roll after clawing back Newcastle’s twelve point lead, they were undefeated in twelve games and Kevin Keegan had the mother of meltdowns on television. United travelled the south coast with everything in good order, except for one thing – their kit.
United’s third strip that season was an unusual grey number, and before this match against Southampton, United had not won any of their previous five matches whilst wearing the cursed jersey. The Reds soon felt the wrath of their bogey team, and as history would prove, their bogey kit as Fergie’s men found themselves 3-0 down at half-time. The players claimed they had trouble picking out their team mates in the crowd, and with the grey kit’s record of four defeats and one draw already a bad omen, United did not want to tempt fate any more. The Reds changed their kit at half time to the more visible blue and white striped kit and the game ended 3-1.
The following season United started the campaign unbeaten in their first nine games. This soon came to a halt in October when first they were thrashed 5-0 by Newcastle, then the Reds faced a trip to the Dell to face Southampton. They say lightening does not strike twice in football, but on this occasion it did – and worse. United were pummelled 6-3 by the Saints in a game which included the goal of the season by Matt Le Tissier. This match still stands as the most goals conceded away from home by Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
In January 1998 United were flying high at the top of the league, however after losing 3-2 away to Coventry at the turn of the year the wheels started to come of that season’s title charge. The Red’s next away game was against Southampton, with United looking to avenge their two previous catastrophic visits to the Dell, however they failed to amends. United lost at Southampton for the third season running with a 1-0 defeat, after Kevin Davies scored for the home side after three minutes. Saint’s keeper Paul Jones had his most inspired day between the sticks, United began to squander their eleven point lead over Arsenal, and ultimately they were pipped to the title.
In September 1999, United were riding high in the league once again, after winning the treble the season before. United were also still coming to terms with replacing the recently retired Peter Schmeichel. The Red’s home game against Southampton saw new goalkeeper Massimo Taibi wear the gloves for United with Sir Alex Ferguson already starting his fourth different goalkeeper of the season. It proved to be a disaster, as the man who became known as the ‘Blind Venetian’ let a tame shot on goal from Matt Le Tissier inexplicably slip through his legs. The Italian goalkeeper blamed the length of his studs, however United had no one else to blame but themselves as they drew 3-3 at Old Trafford in a game they should have won comfortably.
You see, this is no ordinary fixture; even in 1976 a second division Southampton beat United in the FA Cup final in arguably the biggest FA Cup final shock of all-time. In the Premier League alone we have seen the Saints produce the goal of the season against us, give us our biggest away bashing, retire one of our kits and one of our goalkeepers. Furthermore, after United’s thrilling 3-2 comeback against the Saints at St Mary’s earlier on this season, there is no reason why Southampton’s seven year absence from the Premier League has done anything to change this extraordinary fixture so we should not look at this as a run-of-the-mill game. This is Southampton versus Manchester United, the game where ANYTHING can happen.
United will look to make several changes from the team that beat Fulham in the FA Cup on Saturday.
De Gea should retain his place in goal and in front of him Vidic and Ferdinand are likely to start in the centre-back positions. Evra will return at left-back with Rafael continuing on the right. Jones, Smalling and Buttner are also available. Evans is unavailable through injury.
Carrick and Cleverley are set to resume their partnership in the centre of midfield. Giggs, Scholes and Anderson could also feature at some point. Nani and Valencia are likely to play on the wings as Ashley Young is still out with a knee injury. Kagawa and Powell are also available.
Rooney and van Persie should start upfront, with Hernandez and Welbeck likely to be among the substitutes.
Manchester United: (from) De Gea, Lindegaard, Evra, Rafael, Jones, Smalling, Buttner, Vidic, Ferdinand, Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson, Giggs, Scholes, Kagawa, Powell, Valencia, Nani, Welbeck, Hernandez, Rooney, van Persie.
Southampton: (from) K Davis, Gazzaniga, Boruc, Clyne, Richardson, Stephens, Fox, Shaw, Yoshida, Forren, Hooiveld, Ward-Prowse, Cork, Chaplow, De Ridder, Ramirez, Schneiderlin, S Davis, Lallana, Puncheon, Lee, Lambert, Rodriguez.
Referee: Lee Mason
Ground: Old Trafford
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