The F.A. Cup will give Sir Alex Ferguson a timely opportunity to freshen things up after a gruelling encounter at Blackpool midweek. However, with 7 years passed since he last won the Cup – and the longest period since he took charge without winning it at that – Fergie will hope to avoid making the same mistake as he did versus Everton at Wembly the year before last, where he made 10 changes to the starting line-up (undoubtedly affecting the team’s fluidity).
It must be noted too, that Southampton are playing well at the moment, with Chamberlain and Surman forging a formidable partnership scoring plenty of goals in an attacking 4-4-2, taking them up to 4th in the league table. Chamberlain’s pace is something for Manchester United’s defence to look out for, as is Surman’s hold-up play, tending to drag defenders out of position, creating space for his partner and midfield runners to get in behind.
At the back, ex Bolton and Birmingham star Jaidi will take command of what is a young first 11; However, with question marks over the player’s ability to deal with pace (he is often quite static at times), Man United could have some success directly running at the defender. It therefore makes sense for at least one of Owen or Hernandez to start the game.
After much thought, I’m backing Owen to get the nod alongside Rooney who will be itching to get back into the action after a miserable outing at Bloomfield Road; This could pave the way for Hernandez to start arguably the more important game versus Aston Villa on Tuesday, with Ferguson well aware of the blossoming partnership between him and Dimitar Berbatov – and could also offer Rooney the chance to snatch a goal or two, as he seeks to regain his confidence after some mixed performances of late.
In goal, it will be either Kuzsczak or Lindegaard, Im going with the former given the goal threat Saints pose and the fact that Thomaz has done well of late when called upon.
Expect a number of changes at the back, as both Rio and Rafael are still injured, Evra out due to bereavement and Vidic looking a little wary in the last game or two; O’Shea should continue at right-back then, and with Smalling perhaps pencilled in for the Villa game, a surprise return to CH for Brown could be on the cards. Evans and Fabio are my bets for the remaining defensive births.
In midfield, Carrick may return after missing the Blackpool game – and his positional acumen will be needed (as it was midweek) against a sprightly and attack-minded team; Anderson should get the nod after playing only the back-end of the game, as Fergie will seek to match their energy and verve in the middle of the park. On the wings its 2 from 3, as Giggs, Obertan and Nani fight for position; With Giggs likely to start on Tuesday after making a sensational impact midweek (and Nani not quite back to match-fitness), I’m backing Obertan to join Nani the starting lineup.
Saints versus United is always a cracking game and this should be no different as the crowd at St Mary’s will inevitably by buoyed by the visit of the league favourites.
4-4-2 meets 4-4-2 then, and this could mean goals.
I’m going for 3-1 victory for United.
Referee: Howard Webb – always available for United if we need a fresh pair of legs late on in the game……
Register with Stretford End Arising forum.