Manchester United

How Manchester United Will Line Up Against Southampton

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01:  Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's third goal with team mates Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on February 1, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Rob BlanchetteFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2014

It could have been the final nail in David Moyes' coffin, but the last game of the season for Manchester United has been spun into a catalyst for hope.

The Red Devils travel to the south coast on Sunday to face a Southampton team who have continually outperformed sides with more resources than them.

With the likes of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw all hoping for call-ups to Roy Hodgson's England World Cup squad, the game marks one last opportunity to impress the international boss. 

And with their competition residing in the United line-up, with Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley all likely to feature, the match could have more spice than you would expect.

Southampton will finish an impressive eighth place in the Premier League, per BBC Sport, as they are currently six points clear of Newcastle.

United could land an unlikely spot in the Europa League if they win the match and Tottenham surrender all three points at home to Aston Villa

However, it is questionable if United even want Europa League football with the incredible amount of games that participants are forced to play. 

 

The Last Stand of Legends

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 06:  Manchester United Caretaker Manager Ryan Giggs prepares to come on as a substitute during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Hull City at Old Trafford on May 6, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Pho
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The match represents the last appearance in a United shirt for club captain Nemanja Vidic, who will join Inter Milan in the summer.

But the game could also be the last for Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs: All three players' contracts expire soon and their fate will be decided by any new incoming manager.

Interim boss Giggs feels that both Ferdinand and Evra still have their parts to play. Sky Sports believe that the player-manager has pressed for new terms to be offered to both defenders, with them quoting Giggs as saying:

Decisions on a lot of players were made four or five weeks ago. It is just a couple that are a bit up in the air. I have just given my point of view, then we will make a decision.

The decision will be down to everyone - Rio, Patrice, Ed and whoever is the manager next year. It is a group discussion but I still think they have a lot to offer. They have been great players and they remain assets to a club like Manchester United.

After not featuring against Hull on Tuesday, it is likely that both legendary defenders will make Giggs' final starting line-up as manager of United. 

With a veteran-based defence in both centre-back positions and left-back, Chris Smalling will get the nod on the right after the shoulder injury to Phil Jones that threatens to derail his involvement for England at the World Cup.

 

Midfield Roulette

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 06:  Adnan Januzaj of Manchester United competes with Maynor Figueroa of Hull City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Hull City at Old Trafford on May 6, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

United's midfield is so weak at present that the only element you can really predict is Michael Carrick's involvement plus three random picks. 

Giggs seems convinced in the merits of 4-4-2 during his short spell as manager, and it is unlikely that he will change his thinking ahead of the match, on Sunday.

Attackers Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson's fine performances on Tuesday should guarantee both teenagers another start, but Giggs is just as likely to plump for Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young in the winger positions.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley and Jack Rodwell of England warm up with their team-mates during England Training session at London Colney on August 13, 2012 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Young has a chance to stake a late claim for a place on the plane to the World Cup for England, and one big performance may see him leapfrog into Hodgson's plans.

For the same reasons, Cleverley is likely to get a start after Darren Fletcher's poor performance recently in the home defeat to Sunderland.

Cleverley has only featured in the first team five times in the Premier League since February, per Squawka, and his hopes of playing in Brazil have faded. But Hodgson has always been a fan of the player, and this will be a chance for the Bradford lad to petition the England manager for a place in his squad. 

 

The Return of Robin

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 06:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Hull City at Old Trafford on May 6, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo b
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The smile on Robin van Persie's face, as he buried the ball in the back of the net for United's third goal against Hull, spoke a thousand words. 

Van Persie suffered an injury-ravaged campaign under the stewardship of David Moyes, and he has looked miserable for most of the year.

But the relief and release was clear to see on the Dutch striker's face with his fitness now improved and with the expectation of linking up with Louis van Gaal at United next season.

RvP is likely to start at the top of the attack with Juan Mata tucked in behind, playing the No. 10 role. It will be a fascinating combination and one we might see more of next season.

As with many in the United squad, Mata will be desperate to impress his Spanish national team coaches, but there is a significant chance that the Reds' record signing will be watching the World Cup on the television along with millions of fans worldwide.

Van Persie will be hoping for a solid 90 minutes of action in preparation for the demands of a summer in Brazil with the Netherlands side that he captains.

Predicted team: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Cleverley, Carrick, Young, Mata, van Persie

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