Manchester United welcome Southampton to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon for the final match of 2017 as they look to pick up three points for the first time in three games. United have endured a difficult last few weeks and have won just two of their last five Premier League matches, which has seen them fall 15 points behind runaway leaders and arch-rivals Manchester City. Manager Jose Mourinho has also seen his side suffer a shock elimination from the Carabao Cup, succumbing to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Championship side Bristol City at the quarter-final stage.
On Tuesday, United required a stoppage-time goal from Jesse Lingard to rescue a draw at home to high-flying Burnley, after going into the half-time break two goals down and staring a fourth league defeat in the face. The draw ensured that the Red Devils remained in second place in the table, however, their advantage over third-place Chelsea has been reduced to just a single point. With Pep Guardiola’s City not playing until Sunday, United have the opportunity to exert a little pressure on their rivals and potentially cut their lead at the top of the standings to 12 points, albeit momentarily.
There are no fresh injury concerns for Mourinho as he prepares for the visit of the Saints, whilst centre-back Chris Smalling could be available for selection having sat out Tuesday’s clash due to a groin injury sustained in the latter stages of United’s disappointing 2-2 draw at Leicester City last weekend. At right-back, first-choice Antonio Valencia is unlikely to be fit having picked up a hamstring problem during the Red Devils’ most recent victory, away to West Bromwich Albion.
Anthony Martial, who was unavailable for the clash with the Clarets due to a knee injury and could be back in the side on Saturday, whilst the in-form Lingard would expect to be handed a starting berth following his point-saving brace against Burnley. Meanwhile, midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick are both unlikely to be included in the matchday squad and are unlikely to be fully fit over the next couple of weeks.
United take on a Southampton side that have not tasted victory in their past seven matches and who have slid down the league table into 14th place, just two points clear of the drop zone. Striker Charlie Austin is a huge doubt for the trip to Old Trafford, whilst centre-back Virgil van Dijk will not play a part on Saturday, following the announcement that he will join league rivals Liverpool next week for a staggering £75 million fee.
United will be hoping to draw the curtains on a year that has brought two trophies – the Carabao Cup and the Europa League – with a victory over the Saints, which would give the Red Devils a timely boost ahead of a tricky trip to a rejuvenated Everton on New Year’s Day.