Southampton makes the trip to Old Trafford on Saturday evening where it has pinched a victory before, but with just one win in the last 10 games will there be magic again against a hot and cold Manchester United?
Well, not according to Brent Maximin of the Busby Babe. He gave us the lowdown on everything United and even had time to take a jab at our recent sale of Virgil van Dijk.
St Mary’s Musings: So, title race official over?
Brent Maximin: Barring a massive blood doping scandal, the title race is over. All United can do is to keep the gap respectable.
SMM: Knocked out of the League Cup by Bristol City, late equaliser against Leicester and fought for a draw at home to Burnley -- what’s going on?
BM: The defense is a total shambles. Our first choice full-backs are both converted wingers (one of whom is injured now anyway), and in the middle, Marcos Rojo is back to being the liability he was before Mourinho hypnotized him last season, Chris Smalling has never seen a cross he didn't want to misjudge, and Phil Jones is a permacrock. The attack has lost steam since the early stages of the season, but it's at the back where the real travesty is.
SMM: Do you agree with Jose Mourinho when he says Manchester United are a big club, but not a big team?
BM: Mourinho needs to take a look in the mirror as well, but he's not totally wrong. The Glazers oversaw nearly a decade of underinvestment under Ferguson, and the vast majority of recruitment under Moyes and van Gaal was substandard. Mourinho has bought well enough, but the team needed more investment than most people realized. That said, Mourinho has been found wanting with some of his game management since he's been at United. Poor substitutions and a failure to manage games late on have contributed to some bad results as well.
SMM: In terms of Premier League position, United is better off than they were last year, but has the team regressed in performance, especially as of late?
BM: We're better than last year without a doubt, but the performances have regressed from earlier this season when it looked like we'd seriously challenge for the league. The over-reliance on Paul Pogba has been exposed, as has the lack of quality and/or depth is certain areas of the team.
SMM: Romelu Lukaku has just three goals in his last 10 appearances across all competitions. What can be the catalyst to help him get his scoring boots back?
BM: He's started coming back into form a bit recently, but he needs a bit of luck to get his confidence back. Just let him score a couple easy ones, okay? Thanks.
SMM: United has draw Sevilla in the Champions League knockout phase - Do you fancy this matchup and how do you stack up against the Spanish side?
BM: Sevilla have been a mess lately, but it looks like they'll be appointing Montella soon, and United could end up meeting them while they're still experiencing the benefits of the "new manager bounce." They have some talented players, and with the right manager could cause problems. That said, Mourinho's record in cup competitions is outstanding for good reason. His team will be well prepared, and I expect we'll have enough to go through. Better than facing Madrid or Munich, anyway.
SMM: How will Mourinho set up his team to face Southampton? Do you expect a host of changes to the team that drew against Burnley?
BM: With injuries being what they are, I don't expect many changes at all. Martial (if fully fit) may come in for Rashford. Smalling is injured and Rojo was atrocious in the first half on Boxing Day, so Lindelof and Jones should start at center back. Other than that, I expect the same team and shape from the Burnley match.
SMM: What player on Southampton should be of concern for United?
BM: Do you have any players left who Liverpool haven't bought yet? Sofiane Boufal is a handful, and I rate Højbjerg.
SMM: Who on United will pose a problem for Saints?
BM: Anthony Martial, if he's fit enough to start, has been in good form lately. Pogba on his day can run rings against most midfields in this league. Mkhitaryan has been AWOL for ages now, but he provided a spark off the bench in midweek, and may finally be proving his worth again.
SMM: Finally, a prediction?
BM: I don't expect either side to keep a clean sheet in this one. 3-1 United.