LONDON: Manchester United will look to get their league title defence airborne at home to high-flying Southampton today, as the Premier League resumes following the international break.
United’s England players will return to club duty with a spring in their step after the national team secured qualification for next year’s World Cup, but Old Trafford has not been a happy place in recent weeks.
With only two wins in their last six games, David Moyes’s side trail early leaders Arsenal by six points and in Southampton they face a team who have climbed to fourth place following a run of three straight victories.
The shadow of former manager Alex Ferguson continues to loom over the club but he has urged fans to show patience.
Speaking at an event to unveil a road near Old Trafford that has been renamed in his honour earlier this week, Ferguson said: “It’s a great, great football club. You, the supporters, have enjoyed it.
“And I still think that a lot of our young fans don’t remember that there were bad days. Dealing with bad days is what we’re good at. This club will always go on.”
A brace from teenage winger Adnan Januzaj gave United a 2-1 win at Sunderland in their last outing but Southampton are likely to present formidable opposition, having gone four games without conceding a goal.
Saints captain Adam Lallana has given Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino the credit for their fine start to the campaign.
“We’ve had a full pre-season under him to get his tactics and methods across,” Lallana told local newspaper the Daily Echo. “You’re starting to see all the rewards of our hard work under the manager.”
The top five clubs are in action today, with Arsenal hosting Norwich City, second-placed Liverpool visiting Newcastle United, third-placed Chelsea facing Cardiff City and Manchester City, who go into the weekend in fifth, travelling to West Ham United.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, whose side won 6-0 in the corresponding fixture against Newcastle last season, has revealed that he will have three players available for selection again after injury for the trip to St James’ Park.
“We’ll arrive with our strongest squad of the season against Newcastle,” he said.
“They haven’t played games but they’ve been training now for the last few weeks. Glen Johnson will be back, Joe Allen will be back, (Aly) Cissokho will be back.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, says that club-record signing Mesut Ozil will undergo a fitness test after hurting his knee on international duty with Germany.
“He is alright. He came back with a knock on the knee but it was just a kick,” the Frenchman said. AFP