For the first time in almost 18 months, when Ralph Hasenhüttl and his players walk out of the tunnel ahead of kick-off at St Mary's on Sunday they will be greeted by the noise of a packed stadium.

It was March 2020 when the home of the Saints was last fully open, with the restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic preventing fans from attending games other than in limited numbers on a small number of occasions.

That has all changed heading into the 2021/22 campaign, though, and Hasenhüttl is expecting a particular sense of occasion for the first home game of the season, as Manchester United visit.

"For everybody it will be very special I think, and then you have such a strong side to face," he said. "Definitely the first highlight of the season and we are looking forward to it.

"I think it's a very good feeling because this is what we are working for, and why we are working for this is clear – we want to be successful and we want to show them a good game, an intense game and we want to give them a good weekend. This is what we want and this is what we are working for.

"It was a very long time where we had them only at their homes in front of the television and this is a different situation for sure. The noise in the stadium when they are positive and they push you, when we show them our skills, this is what definitely can help you and can push you.

"You want to feel this and have this as a player and a manager. This is what football is about, this is what everybody loves and this is why football is so popular."