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May 7, 2014

Saints to finish with a flurry?

So here it is, the last game of the season. Already!

When the fixtures were released in the summer, having Manchester United at home on the final day looked like a daunting task. Back then it was still plausible that Saints could have needed to beat the reigning champions to survive, with the visitors themselves needing to win to retain their title. Reminiscent of the 2005 tragedy.

But it hasn't quite worked out like that, has it? Now the fixture is simply a dead rubber between two sides just one place apart in the league. There'll be no relegation at St. Mary's on Sunday and no trophy presentations, just two teams looking to end their season on a high.

For Southampton, of course, it has been a season of highs, but with the contrasting level of expectations; for the Red Devils, one place above them in the league, it has been a season of unprecedented lows.

That is not to say that United aren't still a formidable opponent. Undoubtedly they will be looking to give Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and perhaps a couple of others a good sendoff as they head into a summer of rehabilitation, and they still have the kind of players who can win a game on their own in Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie.

Saints will want victory too, though, and have their own show stealers. At the risk of lumping myself in with those who like to speculate on transfer stories, there is clearly the potential that the home fans will be waving goodbye to some of their own. Adam Lallana's speech after his clean sweep of four awards at the club's end-of-season bash was less than convincing. It felt like a mixture of wanting to say the right thing and also say goodbye.

It is beyond doubt that Lallana, Luke Shaw and several others of Saints' squad will be the subject of bids this summer, perhaps even from Sunday's visitors themselves, so in preparation for that, it would be great to go out with a bang.

I back the home side against anyone at St. Mary's, and with United's squad having been seriously found out this season I can see them set for another humbling. This is the last chance for English players in both sides to impress Roy Hodgson. The side just have to get the job done, win the game, and then the fans can watch their Saints stars take on the world in Brazil!

Keep the faith.