Erik ten Hag has warned his Manchester United players they face more Premier League pain if they are not at their absolute best against Southampton.
United suffered the joint-worst defeat in their entire history last weekend when going down 7-0 to fierce rivals Liverpool at Anfield.
The Red Devils responded with a 4-1 win over Real Betis in the Europa League on Thursday and now welcome Southampton to Old Trafford on their return to domestic action.
Southampton are bottom of the division, but they have won two of their past three games, including a 1-0 victory away at Chelsea.
“We have seen two weeks ago Southampton beat Chelsea away, so we have to play an outstanding performance on Sunday to beat Southampton,” Ten Hag said.
“At the bottom it’s very close, so they will be front foot, they will be aggressive, they will do everything they can do to collect points here.
“We have to be 100 per cent and give the best performance to beat them. Every game is an exam as a team and as an individual.”
Southampton are the only team to have won more than half of their points in away games so far this season, with 12 of their 21 points coming on the road (57 per cent).
The Saints’ survival prospects have improved since Ruben Selles replaced Nathan Jones, and the Spaniard has another Premier League scalp in his sights on Sunday.
“The numbers say that we have been getting more points away from home than at home,” he said. “We are playing every game and wanting to win.
“It is not something we consider as important, we know it is there, but we will prepare like we do every week.
“We try to prepare for the first minute to the last minute. We know that they can have a strong start and we know Old Trafford will be pushing them forward.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Manchester United – Bruno Fernandes
Fernandes came in for more criticism than most for his petulant display against Liverpool, but he has otherwise impressed this season and was among the scorers against Betis. The Portugal international has been directly involved in six Premier League goals against Southampton – only against Leeds (eight) does he have a better record.
Southampton – James Ward-Prowse
Southampton captain Ward-Prowse is one direct free-kick goal short of matching David Beckham’s Premier League record of 18 – and where better place to draw level than at Old Trafford. He has scored 27 per cent of his direct free-kicks in the league this season (3/11), but has incredibly failed to convert both penalties he has taken.
MATCH PREDICTION – MAN UNITED WIN
United were humiliated by Liverpool last weekend, though not since May-August last year have they lost successive league games (four in a row).
Southampton have improved under Selles and tend to perform better on their travels, but they are winless in their last six against United at Old Trafford.
The Saints are also winless in their past 14 meetings with United in all competitions, and that is a run that is expected to continue this weekend.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Manchester United – 61.6 per cent
Southampton – 15.4 per cent
Draw – 23 per cent