Southampton-Manchester United Preview
LONDON (SE) - Robin van Persie can mark a new personal best by scoring in a sixth straight Premier League match Wednesday night when leaders Manchester United welcome Southampton to Old Trafford.
Van Persie continues to electrify the footballing world with 18 goals to top the league - two ahead of Liverpool's Luis Suarez.
The talismanic Dutchman was not used in a weekend 4-1 thrashing of Fulham in the FA Cup, with Sir Alex Ferguson sure to restore van Persie to the squad for league play. Van Persie has scored in five straight Premier League fixtures for the third time in his career, having done so for Arsenal last season and in 2009.
Van Persie should be tipped to add to his haul after his hat trick in a 3-2 victory in the reverse fixture Sept. 2 at St. Mary's. His goals in the 87th and 90th minutes rescued all three points after it appeared United would take none.
Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 17 home fixtures against Southampton, with 15 victories in that span. The Saints' last victory at Old Trafford was a 2-0 triumph on Jan. 16, 1988.
Ferguson was pleased with his side's progress in the FA Cup. United bossed the proceedings comfortably, with Javier Hernandez scoring twice after goals by Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs.
"I'm really pleased that Wayne scored and that Chicha scored two because if I get those two and Robin into the twenty-plus goals mark, we're definitely in business," Ferguson said on Manchester United's official website.
The manager chose Giggs to take a second-minute penalty, with Rooney having missed his 10th with the Red Devils earlier in the competition. Ferguson insists Rooney will be ready to step up again if called upon.
"The thing about Wayne is that it doesn't faze him if he misses a penalty kick," Ferguson said. "He's got a fantastic temperament for that."
United have won their last eight league fixtures at Old Trafford and lead Manchester City atop the table, although the Citizens will be heavily favoured to cut the margin to two points with their Tuesday visit to bottom side Queens Park Rangers.
Southampton sit in 15th place on 23 points with a six-match unbeaten streak in the Premier League, although they have secured all three points once in that span. The Saints have one win and three draws in their last four away ahead of new boss Mauricio Pochettino's first away trip in English football.
"We're going to Manchester United to win - that has to be our mentality," Pochettino told the Saint's official Twitter account. "Our mentality always has to be to win."
The former Espanyol manager took his current side to warmer climates ahead of this journey for some continental training in his old home of Barcelona. The Saints had no weekend fixture, having been knocked out of the FA Cup.
Pochettino was a starting defender in the 2002 World Cup for Argentina against an English side that included current United veterans Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes.
Forward Rickie Lambert has four goals in his last six league matches and was on target in the reverse fixture for the Saints.