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INSIDE INFO: A Manchester United fan's thoughts ahead of Southampton's Friday night visit - will Mourinho get off the mark at Old Trafford?

We spoke to SB Nation football writer and United fan Andi Thomas for his thoughts ahead of Saints' visit to Old Trafford on Friday night.

Stu Forster/Getty Images

This week we spoke to SB Nation football writer/die-hard Manchester United fan Andi Thomas to get the lowdown on Southampton's opponents for Friday night's game at Old Trafford.

Please read, like, share and, most importantly, enjoy this week's edition of INSIDE INFO - the original (we're looking at you, Saints column which gets the opposition's views ahead of their match against our beloved Southampton.


St. Mary's Musings: What were your expectations for United ahead of the 2016/17 season?

Andi Thomas: Be a bit better in terms of results and a lot better in terms of entertainment. I'm not expecting an immediate league title; what's most important is that watching United ceases to be a stultifying experiment in watching a back four play the ball amongst themselves while I shout "pass it forwards, for God's sake" and try to resist the urge to gnaw off my own arm.

SMM: One game in, a 3-1 win away at Bournemouth, what did you make of it?

AT: Encouraging in lots of ways. Eric Bailly looks to the Premier League born and the side showed signs of shaking off the endless circles of Louis van Gaal. And while the headlines all went to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was great, the most encouraging aspect was the performances from players who were here last season: Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and even Marouane Fellaini. It looks like they're stepping up to a fresh beginning, which can only bode well.

SMM: How different are things now Mourinho is at the helm rather than van Gaal?

AT: Early days, of course, but everything seems a lot more coherent. The club identified their transfer targets, then went out and got them, and so far on the pitch the team look far more capable both of playing well, and of winning while playing not so well. That said, we're all waiting for the first big Mourinho feud to arrive. Once we've seen how that shakes out, we'll know if what happened at Chelsea was an aberration, or if he's actually starting to lose his aura.

SMM: A lot has been said about the transfer fee paid for Pogba. What's your take on it?

AT: Well, it's obviously stupid and football is obviously a broken and hideous thing. But it's hard to get too exercised about it, given that the money, if it weren't going to Mino Raiola and Juventus, would be going to the Glazer family. If a football club are going to haul in huge piles of cash, and they aren't going to use it to reduce ticket prices, then it's best they spend it on becoming better at football.

SMM: Friday night football. Yay or nay?

AT: In theory, I've no problem with it. But making fans schlep from Southampton to Manchester is patently ludicrous; if it's going to happen, it needs to be for derbies and other relatively close fixtures. Whether the police would let the Premier League have a derby on a Friday night is another question.

SMM: Of all your signings made this season, who do you think will be best suited for United?

AT: It's easy to say Pogba, on the basis that it's been ages since United had a properly brilliant midfielder and he's a properly brilliant midfielder. But if Henrikh Mkhitaryan adjusts to English football and nails down a place in the team, then he could be the man to make United's attack a truly terrifying thing again.

SMM: Do you think the Jose Fonte rumours hold any weight?

AT: Since Bailly will likely be off to the African Cup of Nations in January, there will probably be somebody coming in, and given the relative youth, inexperience, and inconsistency of all United's defensive options, it could well be somebody towards the veteran end of things. So while I have absolutely no inside knowledge, Fonte makes a lot of sense. He's experienced; he knows the Premier League, so there'd be minimal adjustment; and personally I think he's pretty good.

SMM: What do you make of Saints going into this season?

AT: As ever, fascinating. You've changed your manager and sold three of your best players! Again! Seems like a dangerous habit to get into ... Anyway, though I know shamefully little about Claude Puel, I think Redmond and Hojbjerg are pretty decent signings, and I'm assuming it'll be another season of elegant overperformance followed by an undignified feeding frenzy.

SMM: If you could sign any Saints player, who would it be and why?

AT: Fonte's obviously the sensible choice here, so let's be a bit silly and go with one of the youngsters. Harrison Reed, maybe. Quite like the way his name sounds like an recruitment agency.

SMM: If you could sell any United player from your regular starting XI, who would it be and why?

AT: One Wayne Rooney, heavily raced, yours for a mere £300,000 a week.

SMM: Who should Saints fans watch out for on Friday?

AT: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who seems to be enjoying himself so far and loves an occasion, will be playing his first competitive game at Old Trafford. So that should be fun.

SMM: Finally, what is your prediction for the game?

AT: Let's say 2-1 to United, with Mkhitaryan scoring both and, in the process, making me look like a genius.

We would like to thank Andi for his time. Make sure you head back to St. Mary's Musings for information ahead of Saints' trip to Manchester.