Manchester United vs Southampton Preview: Mourinho aiming to get back on track as Saints head to Old Trafford

Manchester United host Southampton for the final round of Premier League fixtures of the calendar year, and neither side head into the match in a confident mood.

Manchester United vs Southampton Preview: Mourinho aiming to get back on track as Saints head to Old Trafford
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

As the calendar year of 2017 comes to an end, the Premier League sees a dispirited Southampton team travel to the North-West to face an out-of-form Manchester United, with both managers being on the receiving end of criticism in recent weeks. 

The Red Devils have endured a torrid run of results in recent weeks; a defeat to Bristol City in the League Cup was followed by a devastating last-minute equaliser at Leicester City and most recently suffered a frustrating draw on Boxing Day to surprise outfit Burnley. Jose Mourinho's United now sit a dramatic 15 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City

As for Southampton, Mauricio Pellegrino will be pondering whether his future lies at St. Mary's having been demolished by Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, courtesy of a Harry Kane hat-trick, but that result was preceded by a draw to Huddersfield Town in the league and losses to Chelsea and Leicester.

The Saints currently sit a worrying two points above the drop and a defeat at the weekend could very well see them fall into the bottom three. 

​United without numerous defenders at hand

Mourinho will be scratching his head prior to the fixture against Southampton as the United boss has several defensive players side-lined going into the new year. 

Chris Smalling was forced to go off at the King Power Stadium before Christmas and continues to be a doubt, as for his centre-half team-mate, Eric Bailly, who stays in the stands after suffering a long-term injury. 

Antonio Valencia, alongside Matteo Darmian and Marouane Fellaini, are on the recovery but the game comes too early for them to be selected for the hosts. 

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Pellegrino absent of key striker

Pellegrino has a selection issue on his hands as in-form and reliable forward Charlie Austin remains suspended having been punished for his incident during the home draw to Huddersfield last weekend. 

The manager will most likely opt for Manolo Gabbiadini to lead the line at Old Trafford on Saturday, but Shane Long is also available. 

Fourth meeting of the year

Manchester United will lock horns with Southampton for the fourth time of 2017 having met on three previous occasions. Most recently the two teams met at St. Mary's in September, when a dominant Saints display wasn't enough to unearth a point as Romelu Lukaku's goal proved to be the decider. 

However, the more notable fixture between the Red Devils and Southampton this year was the League Cup Final in February. Gabbiadini's double was enough to get the score line level but a Zlatan Ibrahimovic winner in the final moments saw Manchester United clinch the bragging rights.