Watt View - Man United result will be a marker of what is next for Saints
Sunday, 29th Nov 2020 09:27
With Saints heading into tomorrow's fixture five points clear of visitors Manchester United, there will be much debate about what the outcome will mean at this stage. This week Matt takes a look at what is at stake.
After a stuttering start, Ralph Hasenhuttl's men have gone on to establish themselves as one the league's most in-form sides with four wins and two draws in the last six.
This sees Saints sat third in the form guide behind Chelsea on goal difference and table-toppers Liverpool who are two points ahead.
Meanwhile, despite two league wins on the bounce, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils are down in seventh with three wins, a draw and two defeats – although they recorded a resounding 4-1 win over Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League in mid-week.
Saints' consistency and style of football has caught they eye of many, with Solskjaer himself likening the team's play to the reigning champions – “pressing, front foot, aggressive”.
He also commended the club's “great improvements” this season and referred to Hasenhuttl's side as “one of the top teams” in the league in an interview ahead of tomorrow's 2pm kick-off.
There is no doubt Man United remain among the elite in world football – their £700 million squad is an indication of that – but having drawn with them twice last season, this meeting with Saints is set to be an intriguing spectacle.
While defeat would be no cause for concern and a point would certainly be welcome, for those wondering where this season will take Saints, a win could be a defining moment and an indication of how far forward the club is moving.
Interestingly, BBC Sport's Mark Lawrenson once again chose to overlook the form guide and predict against Saints, suggesting they will be “picked off” by a resurgent United looking for four wins out of four in all competitions.
His forecast of a 0-2 victory for the Old Trafford outfit would be a resounding result for a team that has been very inconsistent over a side that has been performing consistently well. We shall see.
I don't mean to bleat on about him, but this is the same pundit who claimed prior to the convincing 2-0 win over Newcastle at St Mary's that Saints would be “less effective without [Danny] Ings” because “everything Saints do really does revolve around him”.
On this occasion, Lawrenson said: “We know how good Southampton have been but they are not going to just sit in – they will have a go at United, who will be happy for them to do that and then look to pick them off the same way they did at Everton.”
As he did with his assessment of Saints' style of play when he said everything revolved around one player, this perspective is ill-judged.
While Saints will “have a go”, the methods of play Hasenhuttl has instilled – as described by the United boss – of pressing, being on the front foot, aggressiveness and capitalising on dwelling on the ball are much more advanced than Lawrenson's lazy interpretation of having a go.
All will be revealed tomorrow, but what is certain is that Saints will provide a tough test for Solskjaer's improving United side.
Photo: Action Images
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