Can Southampton continue their good start to the Premier League soccer season when they host Manchester United at St Mary’s on Sunday (9am ET)?
Our Saints vs Man Utd predictions and full EPL game preview will aim to answer that questions, finishing off with our picks.
Southampton secured top-six results during the second half of 2019-20 and have carried that sort of form into the new campaign, brushing off defeats in their opening two matches to string together five wins and a pair of draws that currently have them up in fifth on 17 points.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side returned from the international break with an entertaining 1-1 draw away to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday. Saints were comfortably outshot, 20 to seven, but created three good chances and took the lead through Theo Walcott just past the hour, only for Wolves to strike back 15 minutes from time to grab a share of the spoils.
Southampton’s good early results have seen some talk of them as potential outside challengers for a top-four finish, although that seems a little overblown. While their results have been at a top-six level for going on for 30 matches now, their underlying numbers remain more those of a team likely to finish inside the top 10, potentially the top eight.
That represents quite the turnaround given the state than Hasenhuttl found them in when he took over a team that was in the relegation zone in December 2018. Steady progress has seen a 16th finish in his first half-season followed by an 11th place finish last season and potentially an even better one this.
Saints have a well-defined play style, with an aggressive press producing a side that gives up relatively few shots. While they are quite bland in attack, the good form of Che Adams and Danny Ings, and James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick ability, have so far masked that. It may begin to weigh more heavily on results as we enter the hectic end-of-year period.
Man Utd have not started the league season well by any measure but they still aren’t that far off the early top-four pace. They have 13 points on the board from four wins, one draw and three defeats, but victory in their game in hand would see them move just three points behind Leicester, the current occupants of fourth place.
After finishing third last season, Manchester United were again projected to be top-four finishers this time around, but despite their proximity to those places, most of the highly rated stateside offshore bookmakers and publicly available statistical models have re-rated them due to a mix of so-so results and mediocre metrics. They are now fifth-favorites to secure a Champions League berth. Early leaders Tottenham Hotspur have moved ahead of them.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side did secure their first consecutive victories of the new campaign by following victory away at Everton prior to the international break with a 1-0 win at home to West Bromwich Albion in the return to league action last weekend.
United’s winner came from the penalty spot, with a handball inside the area producing a spot kick converted at the second attempt by Bruno Fernandes. They probably created enough to have won without it, had they been able to turn one of their other three or four good quality chances into goals. That they couldn’t was mainly due to some inspired goalkeeping.
Time will tell if those wins foresee the beginning of the sort of run that saw them come from behind to secure a top-four finish during the second half of last season. Only Liverpool and Manchester City took more points across the final 19 matches of that campaign. The underlying numbers would suggest that is unlikely, but we’ll see how the reality turns out.
Southampton will certainly be testing opponents, despite their relative lack of firepower – more so with Ings out until mid-December with a knee injury. The two teams shared a pair of draws last season, and five of the last seven league matches between them have ended that way. In the circumstances, a qualified backing of Southampton seems a solid play. So our Saints vs Man Utd betting tips verdict for this preview is: