Manchester United v Southampton
Friday August 19, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports 1
Four United players - Eric Bailly, Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic - made Opta's team of the week for Matchday 1 and it backs up what the Bournemouth crowd witnessed in the flesh. United were impressive. Quite simply, Jose Mourinho put round pegs in round holes and the Red Devils had a purpose and directness that was missing for so much of Louis Van Gaal's yawn-inducing tenure.
So much went right in that 3-1 win. Juan Mata got the nod and opened the scoring to suggest that Mourinho won't instantly discard him, Rooney headed in a second and there was the almost obligatory debut goal for Zlatan to follow up his winner in the Community Shield against Leicester. And, of course, there is still Paul Pogba to come.
We've only had one league game but already the vibe around Manchester United seems much more positive.
"Can they still thrive after the summer departures of key men?" seems to be the annual question surrounding Southampton. They certainly did last season under Ronald Koeman when finishing sixth but he was an excellent manager and probably even more suited to the particular task in hand than previous incumbent Mauricio Pochettino.
I have a feeling that, in the wrong hands, this Saints side could struggle and, unfortunately, those ill-fitting palms could belong to new boss Claude Puel.
The former Lyon coach went with a diamond in midfield for the opening day 1-1 home draw with Watford (who played the final 15 minutes with 10 men) and it needed a sharp volley from new signing Nathan Redmond to avoid defeat.
United are 1.4640/85 to notch up what, even in this very early stage of the season, looks a routine win. Southampton were poor in the first half against Watford and, whereas the Mancunians seem to have an instant clarity under Mourinho, Puel is still searching.
It may have been dull as dishwater for large periods under Van Gaal but they were effective at Old Trafford. No team won more home games (12) in the Premier League last season and United also had the best defensive record on their own patch, conceding on just nine occasions. That miserly record is unlikely to change much under the ultra-organised Mourinho.
Southampton won seven times on the road last season, a tally only beaten by the eventual top three and Liverpool. What's more, they've emerged triumphant on their last two visits to Old Trafford (both 1-0) so, on that basis, the 9.417/2 looks big. However, it took 77 matches for Mourinho to suffer a home league defeat when in charge of Chelsea so don't expect him to fall at the first hurdle here.
A draw would be a great result for the visitors and is available at an enlarged 4.77/2. Saints went home with a point in six of their 19 away games last season while United were held at home on five occasions. On those figures, the draw price looks reasonable but that was then and this is now.
It felt like Groundhog Day for United fans when watching their team at home last season as they often failed to witness even a shot on target in the first 45 minutes.
But expect it to be different now. The first home game of a new season heightened by the extra atmosphere of a night crowd should get United firing early and I expect them to be in front at the break. And, if that is the case, it's hard to see them relinquishing that lead.
The Man Utd/Man Utd HT/FT double result is 2.35/4 and looks a good way of squeezing some more profit out of a home win.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
With Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle gone, I fear that you won't get much help from Southampton on this one so that tempers the initial temptation to get involved in the Overs at 1.981/1.
That said, even without a contribution from the visitors, it's easy to see United doing what they did at Bournemouth and racking up three goals of their own.
I'm not inclined to delve into recent United stats when looking for any bets on this game. Jose Mourinho is not Louis Van Gaal or David Moyes. I'd rather judge him on his own numbers.
I remain sceptical that Zlatan will be a sustained force this season. I expect him to do it in headline-grabbing bursts but, with the August sun still shining, I think he's ripe to put on a show in these early games, especially as this is his home Premier League debut.
An added twist is that he seems he has it in for Puel, the Opta stats telling us that he smashed in 11 Ligue 1 goals when the Frenchman was in charge of Nice. That included two hat-tricks.
Expect the Swede to be a thorn in Puel's side again here and get to the Betfair Sportsbook where you can back him to get on the scoresheet at 23/20.
Anthony Taylor is already embroiled in controversy after failing to send off Diego Costa in Chelsea's 2-1 win over West Ham on Monday night. The Manchester-born ref flashed seven yellows in that London derby and only Mark Clattenburg and Keith Stroud dished out more bookings last season.
Normally Taylor doesn't mind reaching for red either, although Southampton look a bit of a 'nice' side after the loss of Victor Wanyama (sent off three times last season) and Puel admits: "We aren't as physical as other teams."
Back Man Utd/Man Utd HT/FT at 2.35/4
Back Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score at 23/20