Superstition or plain winning mentality, it is always a manager’s goal to finish the year with a victory. Manchester United have one more game until 2018, a game that may decide if they finish 2017 2nd or 3rd in the Premier League standings.
While City are a bit far away right now, Chelsea and even Liverpool are breathing down Mourinho’s neck and any slip-up could ruin months’ worth of hard work. Hopefully the Portuguese will be able to motivate his players despite the shaky form shown in the last 3 games.
The biggest problem Manchester United are facing now is probably inconsistency, which is the result of a very tiring 2017 that put players to a true test – 65 games they played up until today. What did this kind of intensity do?
Let’s have a look at how the injury sheet looks ahead of the Southampton confrontation:
- Eric Bailly – Ankle injury picked up on November 8th According to recent updates, he will not return sooner than March 2018. This is his 2nd injury of the year after being benched for 21 days due to a contusion suffered in October.
- Antonio Valencia – Unfortunately, United’s number one right-back is currently being treated for a hamstring injury. The club’s medical staff did not provide a return date for the Devils’ captain who is very likely to have played his last game of 2017 against West Brom back on the 17th od December.
- Marouane Fellaini – He is dealing with a knee injury picked up a month back. Fellaini already missed a dozen games and will miss more as he is expected to return in January or early February.
- Anthony Martial – The Frenchman is also unlikely to play as he seems to be struggling with a knee injury. He will most likely be sidelined by Rashford.
- Matteo Darmian – Is not in top physical condition after the game against Bristol City when he had to fill in for Valencia. He will probably not be featured in the last game of the year as Young seems to be doing a good job regardless of the position he is played on.
- Chris Smalling – Suffered a groin strain which looks worse than first thought. His return date is unknown meaning he will not play on Saturday.
- Michael Carrick – Has not set foot on the pitch this season and will most likely end his Manchester United career in the summer. He is suffering from a heart condition and even though he was on the bench a couple of times in September, there’s little change of seeing him play even in 2018.
Southampton must deal with a lot less in terms of injuries and unavailability:
- Charlie Austin – Suspended and injured, will not be available this Saturday. He will surely be unavailable until early January when he will be cleared to play by the sports court.
- Cédric Soares – Has missed 4 games in December and apparently will miss a couple more after returning earlier to the pitch than he should have. He is dealing with an ankle injury which is always a pain to treat.
- Ryan Bertrand – Is recovering from a hamstring injury and is very likely to be rested for a couple of matches. He is not fit to play on Saturday.
Despite the advantage Southampton seem to have over United, fans can surely count on Mourinho to find a way to cover for all of the above mentioned absences.
The defence will suffer most but again, there’s no reason not to trust the likes of Rojo, Jones, Lindelof or Blind.
A victory is what everyone expects in the end of 2017 for Manchester United and that is what will most likely happen. All that remains to be seen is the score.