Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl expects weekend opponents Manchester United to be eyeing silverware this season, despite an unconvincing start to Erik ten Hag’s reign.
A new era at Old Trafford began with defeat to Brighton and a thrashing at Brentford before United silenced some of their critics by beating bitter rivals Liverpool on Monday evening.
The 20-time English champions, who came into the 2022-23 season on the back of their worst Premier League campaign from a points perspective, have been further boosted by the big-money arrival of midfielder Casemiro from Real Madrid.
Hasenhuttl was unsurprised to see United struggle in their opening fixtures of the new regime but believes they are already displaying a “very clear identity” under former Ajax boss Ten Hag.
“This is a team that has a new manager – it is not surprising that it doesn’t work immediately everything perfectly,” said the Austrian ahead of Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at St Mary’s.
“It would be more surprising when they’re immediately flying.
“I see a very clear identity of what they’re doing now, what they want to do now.
“You are speaking still about a top team that is going for titles and will also do this this season.
“If you beat Liverpool, this is a big sign, a big message to everybody that they are definitely in a good way and I see the clear identity of what they want to do and after all the problems they had.
“They will come with a lot of self confidence.”
United’s deserved 2-1 win over Jurgen Klopp’s Reds came after Ten Hag dropped captain Harry Maguire and star man Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench following the 4-0 humiliation at Brentford.
Hasenhuttl, whose side came from behind to draw 2-2 with Leeds in their opening home match before winning 2-1 at Leicester last week, is unsure how Ten Hag will approach the visit to the south coast.
“I don’t know if this was the reason why they won the (Liverpool) game,” he said of the omissions of Maguire and Ronaldo.
“Sometimes changes are because of tactical thoughts you have and that makes it always difficult to be sure what squad we are facing.
“Even if Casemiro is playing it is not 100 per cent clear in what way it is a different squad.
“We are definitely facing a very strong team here and in the end it’s up to us to keep on going in the way we want to go.
“We have shown in the last two games that we are competitive and this is the next big challenge and we want to show ourselves how good we are.”