Ahead of Saturday's visit to Old Trafford, we spoke to Manchester Evening News report Stuart Mathieson to get the lowdown on Manchester United.
How would you assess Manchester United’s season so far?
It hasn't caught light at all. The whole campaign has become bogged down by negative tactics. Attractive football used to be the watchwords at United, but, despite Louis van Gaal's protestations that the Reds do attack, the majority of critics and fans are finding it hard to accept his style of play and his arguments that they are entertaining. The stats just don't add up.
It is all very cagey. Everything is based on possession football and if that means passing a ball square or backwards or back to David de Gea in order to keep hold of it then so be it. Unfortunately, United haven't got enough creativity to open teams up and get the ball forward enough. It has almost become a war of attrition before the opposition crack and maybe give one hint of a chance. Sometimes United take that opportunity, sometimes they don't. It has all led to a side lacking in confidence and self belief, and they've suffered as a result by being knocked out of the Champions League.
What sort of an approach can Southampton fans expect to see from United this weekend?
All of the above. Saints won't have to prepare themselves for the old United style of going for the jugular from the off. It is a patient game now, with very few chances created, and the fact they've not scored in the first half in a match at Old Trafford since a European game against Wolfsburg in September says it all.
Morgan Schneiderlin is obviously still held in high regard at Southampton. How is he doing with United?
United's stats with Schneiderlin in the side are far superior to when he isn't – only one defeat in the 19 appearances he's made, against six defeats when he has not been in the side. As an anchor man in midfield, his figures show he has done everything needed from him. A few injuries and a victim at times of Van Gaal's infamous fitness 'red zone', when curiously he hasn't been match-fit enough to play, have fragmented his impact.
Who are United’s key men right now?
David de Gea was superb again at Liverpool and the fact over the last few seasons we've seen United more vulnerable than his early years at Old Trafford has put him bang in the spotlight and he's been very busy. But the amount of points he has saved the Reds over the last two season is almost incalculable. Finally, Wayne Rooney is coming back to form. He's had a poor season by his standards and hasn't looked the player he was, but he has stormed back in 2016 with five goals in four matches.
How do you see Saturday’s game going?
I won't be anticipating a gung-ho, edge of the seat match, that's for sure. The Newcastle 3-3 thriller looks like it could be a one-off after United went back to their old ways against Liverpool at Anfield. If Southampton, however, come to play and attack, maybe there might be something more watchable.