Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Southampton

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  • Manchester United have not lost successive Barclays Premier League home games since May 8, 2002
  • Southampton have conceded just two goals in their seven Barclays Premier League games in 2013-14; fewer than any other side
  • 24 different players have started a Premier League match for Manchester United this season; more than any other side

High-flying Southampton head to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United this Saturday (9:45 am ET on NBCSN, watch live via NBC Sports Live Extra) as David Moyes’ side looks to avoid consecutive home losses for the first time since 2002.

Moyes’ men return from international break looking to set things right for the home fans after the 2-1 loss they suffered at the hands of West Bromwich Albion on September 28th. That loss was their second straight following the 4-1 drubbing they were dealt by rivals Manchester City during this fall’s derby.

United managed to bounce back from the Albion loss with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on October 5th. That match marked the coming out party for 18-year-old prodigy Adnan Januzaj, who scored two stunning strikes to give the Red Devils a much needed three points.

Since then Januzaj has become the hot topic among fans in England who hope the Belgian-born player spurns a handful of other options to play for the Three Lions. How much he’ll play for United, however, is the pertinent question this weekend. Fans will hope to see him on the pitch but given Moyes’ history of being cautious with young players, supporters may do well to temper their expectations.

In Januzaj, United have a player who can both create and score goals. Physically underdeveloped, Januzaj overcomes defenders with a silky touch, quick bursts of speed and an ability to find space where little seems to exist. While the winger will be available for selection, Tom Cleverley remains a fitness worry after he withdrew from England duty with a calf problem. If he can’t go, expect Marouane Fellaini to partner Michael Carrick in the center of the park. Rio Ferdinand is also available to play after a bout on the sidelines with a groin injury.

Southampton enter the match red hot, riding a four match unbeaten streak (including three straight victories) that has seen the Saints climb to 4th in the table. Since a 1-0 loss to Norwich on August 31st, the Saints have not conceded a single goal.

The streak began against West Ham United in a 0-0 draw. From there, the offense picked itself up beating Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield before scalping Crystal Palace and Swansea City by identical scores of 2-0. History, however, is against Southampton at Old Trafford where they’ve only taken one point from 14 Premier League matches.

Mauricio Pochettino’s defense has been boosted by Croatian hard man Dejan Lovren, his partnership with Jose Fonte, and strong, young full-backs in Luke Shaw, Nathaniel Clyne and Callum Chambers. They’ll be faced with quite the task in containing the likes of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, who will be eager to prove their strike partnership is just as good as everyone’s favorite duo, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.

Polish netminder Artur Boruc missed his country’s 2-0 defeat against England at Wembley on Tuesday night with a hamstring injury but should be fit to play, while Luke Shaw, who missed the Swansea game through illness, is also available for selection.

A victory for the Saints could send them to the top of the standings while a United win could see them climb as high as 6th in the table.

Check out whether Southampton can keep their streak alive or whether United can regain its home form this Saturday, at 9:45 am ET live on NBC and online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

What They’re Saying 

Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs: “I am enjoying working with the new manager. I would prefer better results but we are only seven or eight games into the season.”

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: “I think all games in the Premier League are exciting, and this is a very good chance for us to show what we can do as a team. . . It’s going to be very difficult but we are going there with a positive mentality. . . I think both teams have changed since we last played them and I am very happy with how the squad is performing these days.”

Prediction

United are heavy favorites but they’ve done little to prove why that should be the case. Southampton are healthy and seem to have a real level-headedness to their football. I think the Saints go into Old Trafford and earn themselves a point.

Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.