Southampton vs Man Utd: Five pre-match questions - Casemiro debut, Ronaldo involvement & more

We look at some of the key talking points ahead of Manchester United’s trip to St Mary’s.
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Manchester United’s season got up and running on Monday as they beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford, to register Erik ten Hag’s first points as manager.

Now it’s a quick turnaround for the Red Devils, who face Southampton on Saturday in the first Premier League game of the weekend.

The Saints also picked up a first win of the campaign last weekend, beating Leicester City 2-1, meaning both sides should head into the clash at St Mary’s with renewed confidence.

But ahead of the game, we look at five big questions surrounding United, and how they’ll approach the fixture…

Will Casemiro start?

United’s fourth summer signing was announced on Monday, with the arrival of Casemiro from Real Madrid.

Casemiro was presented on the pitch ahead of the game. Credit: Getty.Casemiro was presented on the pitch ahead of the game. Credit: Getty.
Casemiro was presented on the pitch ahead of the game. Credit: Getty.

The five-time European champion could be immediately incorporated into the team, most likely at the expense of Scott McTominay.

But dropping the Scotland international after the encouraging display on Monday would seem harsh, and perhaps send a message to United’s players that good performances will go unrewarded.

Regardless, Casemiro is expected to be involved in the matchday squad and may well make his debut as a starter or from the bench.

Where does Ronaldo fit in?

This is a bigger question than necessarily just for the trip to Southampton, but it seems impossible to imagine Cristiano Ronaldo fitting into Ten Hag’s system.

Against Liverpool, the Red Devils were slick, pressed from the front and habitually broke into the spaces behind the opposition defence. This just isn’t possible with Ronaldo in the side.

Ronaldo started on the bench against Liverpool. Credit: Getty.Ronaldo started on the bench against Liverpool. Credit: Getty.
Ronaldo started on the bench against Liverpool. Credit: Getty.

Ten Hag insisted the attacker can operate his set-up when speaking on Monday night, yet failing to start him on Saturday would again hint that Ronaldo is not a pivotal part of the new manager’s plans.

There’s also a question for Ten Hag whether he starts Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial centrally, after both looked promising in that role on Monday.

Will Southampton target Martinez?

Against Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford, Lisandro Martinez was targeted at the heart of United’s defence.

Liverpool opted against this approach, and the former Ajax centre-back managed to thrive against Jurgen Klopp’s side.

But there’s every chance Southampton may deploy similar tactics to those which exposed Martinez, especially with the in-form Che Adams to aim for up front.

All eyes will once again be on United’s defence to see if they can deal with the physical challenge of a strong No.9.

Martinez could be asked to deal with more headers this weekend. Credit: Getty.Martinez could be asked to deal with more headers this weekend. Credit: Getty.
Martinez could be asked to deal with more headers this weekend. Credit: Getty.

Can United improve on set-pieces?

In the 4-0 loss to Brentford, Ten Hag’s men looked particularly susceptible to corners and long throws.

They also weren’t totally convincing in the win over Liverpool, with Mohamed Salah scoring from a corner, while Bruno Fernandes also nearly netted an own-goal in the first half from a similar situation.

Stopping the Saints taking advantage of set-piece opportunities this weekend could be key to United’s chances of taking three points.

Will United maintain their good record?

Southampton have been favourable opponents for United in recent years, and they’re unbeaten in the last 13 games against the club from the south coast.

That’s a run that stretches back six years and includes an EFL Cup final win in 2017 and a 9-0 victory just over 18 months ago.

United have also enjoyed playing at St Mary’s and were last beaten there in 2003, when James Beattie scored in a 1-0 loss that saw a teenage Ronaldo play one of his first games for the Red Devils.