Graeme Le Saux: Mourinho's moods undermine United but they'll get back to winning ways

Jose Mourinho has been a moody presence in recent weeks
Jose Mourinho has been a moody presence in recent weeks
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Graeme Le Saux takes a good look at Saturday's late televised fixture where Manchester United are expected to snap a two-game winless streak, and our ambassador - once the most expensive defender in English football - also muses on the Virgil van Dijk mega-transfer...

"United are performing well below the standard of player their money buys, however 'small' that pot may be! The fans have been incredibly patient so far but I wonder if they will turn soon."

Southampton's visit to Old Trafford on Saturday night brings together two teams suffering from poor spells but it's all relative where United are concerned - the home team haven't won in three while Saints have only enjoyed one victory in 10!

But United do seem to be in a strange place right now with Jose Mourinho bizarrely bemoaning a lack of spending money, despite managing the world's wealthiest club, in the latest of what has been a series of poorly-judged post-match statements.

Those comments ironically came after Burnley, a team assembled for buttons compared to United, departed Old Trafford with a priceless point after going 2-0 up on Mourinho's men and coming within minutes of a win. It's a result to give any club going Old Trafford a little hope and I genuinely think Southampton are not without a chance in spite of all their own problems.

United's swagger goes missing

What excited me about United at the beginning of the season was the freedom they enjoyed. Players were creative and expressing themselves and it was a pleasure to watch but it's dissipated and though in the main results have been good, some poor performances and shock defeats have snuck in and I do think that comes from the manager's mood and demeanour.

And that has to be a concern. Something similar happened to Chelsea in Mourinho's final season and it was interesting that Antonio Conte came in and turned it around so quickly.

Before the talk about transfer funds, Mourinho had publicly berated more than one player - Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mikhtaryan and Chris Smalling have all got the treatment at some point - and that's another questionable tactic in terms of building squad harmony.

Put simply, United are performing well below the standard of player their money buys, however 'small' that pot may be! The fans have been incredibly patient so far but I wonder if they will turn soon.

League is gone but United must win a trophy

United's poor run started with the League Cup shock at Bristol City and we shouldn't overlook that result in United's sequence. That was a strong team they fielded and there really was no excuse for the defeat, however much shocks happen in football.

Before the season I said that given the weight of money they'd spent the pressure was firmly on both Manchester clubs to win the league. It seems unbelievable to say it so early but City have all but wrapped the league up, and I really feel that United must now win either the Champions League or FA Cup this season while also fending off the top four challengers in the league, and that's not an easy task.

Saints may score against United's out of form backline

The odds don't suggest they will come unstuck this weekend with United just 1/3 to win and Saints all the way out at 10/1.

Southampton are mired in a very poor run of form, but while the 5-2 scoreline suggests they were overwhelmed against Spurs last time out the stats tell a different story - Mauricio Pellegrino's side enjoyed almost parity in the shots tallies and gained more corners. Unfortunate for Saints then that Harry Kane was on the other team!

The south coast club have problems at both ends of the pitch right now with Fraser Forster's form a concern and Charlie Austin's suspension and injury robbing them of a forward who looked to be hitting his stride.

Nevertheless, United's defence has lost a little something in recent weeks and I think that if Saints can recreate the greater attacking thrust they showed against Spurs they can at least get on the scoresheet.

A United win with both teams scoring looks the play to me - it's 23/10 on the Betfair Sportsbook.

Van Dijk leaves Saints - I'm fascinated to see how he copes

Of course Southampton have been in the headlines since that Spurs result after announcing the sale of Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool for what is a world-record fee for a defender - squeezing £75m out of a club that is clearly desperate for a leader in the middle of their defence.

It's a staggering bit of business for Saints - they signed the player in September 2015 and while he impressed in his first two campaigns, has been unsettled for much of this season, only featuring for half their games. And for all his quality he hasn't made much of a difference in those fixtures and their record is nearly identical whether he is in the XI or not.

I was once the most expensive defender in British football when moving to Chelsea from Blackburn for £5.5m in 1997.

I have to say the first half a dozen games were hard to handle. I was trying to prove that I was worth it and I felt that all eyes were on my performance and every mistake was magnified. It took those first six games or so before I realised that Chelsea had bought me for the player I was, not some super human defender!

It's not just on the pitch either - van Dijk will have to adjust to new team-mates, manager, moving to a new city and operating at a club with a massive global fan base and the increased scrutiny that brings. It will be fascinating to watch him deal with it.

Graeme’s Weekend Wager

Back wins for Liverpool, Manchester City and West Brom @ 7/1

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