Not that positive results at the St Mary’s are a rare phenomenon, but encounters with Southampton have pretty much been closely contested. Indeed, the last time United recorded a league victory by a two goal margin down at the South Coast club was in 2003! No pressure then. United will therefore have to be on their ‘A’ game and quickly move on from the relative ease of the League Cup fixture on Wednesday. A handful of first team players were given a much-needed rest by the manager and have thus had a full week’s preparation.
Victory in the Cup albeit against ‘just’ Burton Albion was in keeping with the feel good factor in and around the club. Another four goal haul meant that the club has now registered 24 goals in just eight games so far this season—four games fewer than it took to make the same total last season. The frequency with which the club has hit four has also already surpassed the eras of Louis van Gaal and David Moyes. Perhaps what will satisfy the manager most is that his front four are finding the back of the net with regular consistency if not efficiency. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have done their part to supplement the seven goals Romelu Lukaku has fired so far. United are now less reliant on one figure-head for goals—a symptom of last season’s failures.
A look over the horizon to upcoming fixtures suggests that United will be under considerable pressure to maintain pace with City at the summit of the league. The pair of fixtures against Southampton and Crystal Palace will take on considerable importance ahead of the visit to Anfield on the other side of the next International break. With Spurs and Chelsea to follow soon after, you get the feeling that things are about to get very heated. The kind fixture list should have allowed United gather the confidence and momentum that they need ahead of a much tougher run of fixtures.
Whilst there is no obligation to win all the big games, there’s every expectation to win the games against sides below the top six. Southampton away tomorrow is one such fixture. If the target this season is the top prize, United simply can’t let up. More of the same, please.