It’s hard to believe that this time a fortnight ago, Nigel Adkins was preparing his Southampton side to take a point off Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Adkins’ reward for making a couple of astute substitutions to rescue a draw from 2-0 down was his P45 as football shook its collective head.
I, for one, thought the Saints’ board had made a massive boo-boo in sacking a boss who masterminded back-to-back promotions in favour of an untried and relatively unknown Argentinian and as a result, I thought they’d struggle on Mauricio Pochettino’s bow last Monday night.
Yet my radar was well wide of the mark as Southampton outplayed Everton and arguably deserved more than a goalless draw at St Mary’s. The locals didn’t appear too aggrieved by the sudden change in manager and their side responded in kind by continuing their recent run of good form.
It’s six games unbeaten in the Premier League for the division’s newcomers and they’ve got into the groove of picking up useful away points. They’ve only lost one of their last six on the road in the league, including the Chelsea draw which did for Adkins.
With no cup game at the weekend, Pochettino has had plenty of time to get to know his players and impress on them what he’s all about.
Certainly any tactical masterpieces will need to be up to scratch to get anything in their next fixture at Manchester United, as trips to Old Trafford have yielded little for visiting sides in recent weeks.
It’s ten domestic wins on the spin for the Red Devils since the 3-2 defeat by Tottenham in September and you have to flick back 60 games to December 2009 for the last time they failed to score in the league at home.
As purposeful as Southampton have been, I think United will have too much quality in the end and they will consider this a presentable opportunity to extend their lead over Manchester City to seven points after the Citizens’ goalless draw at QPR last night.
Bwin’s 3Way football betting market has the Reds as strong 11/50 favourites for another three points, with the Saints miles away at 19/2 and the draw still long at 11/2. Out of that lot, I won’t waste much of your time on the latter options.
It was the Robin van Persie show in the previous meeting between the sides in September, when the Dutchman scored three on the south coast to dig United out of one of the many holes they found themselves in over the first half of the season.
But Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have only gone behind once since the start of December and when they get in front, they tend to stay there.
The league leaders were only required to play in bits and pieces in their 4-1 FA Cup fourth-round win against Fulham on Saturday and although the Saints aren’t as loose on the road as the Cottagers, I can see them suffering a similar fate.
United to win both halves is 5/4, which seems great value considering they’re 57/100 to overcome a 1-0 handicap, and if you think this will be business as usual, then the 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 home multiple is 21/10, with 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 priced up at 11/4.
Those scores would have made you money in six of the last seven games at Old Trafford.
Another pattern is the 1-0 half-time lead for United, which has happened in four of their last five games at Old Trafford, and that is 5/2 to continue – which is certainly worth a free £20 bet of anybody’s money.
But the correct score market is where I will be placing my hard-earned and with United’s defensive frailties – West Brom are the only team in the top half of the table to have conceded more goals – and the Saints’ attacking threat in the shape of Rickie Lambert and Gaston Ramirez, the 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 home win looks the value call at the longer price.
For more inane ramblings, feel free to join me on Twitter @bainesyDiego10