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How Manchester United could look in a 3-4-2-1 formation against Bristol City in the Carabao Cup

Manchester United will be pitted against Championship high-flyers Bristol City in the fifth round of the Carabao Cup at Ashton Gate this evening. Jose Mourinho will make a few changes to the side which beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at the Hawthorns in the Premier League on Sunday with Henrikh Mkhitaryan back in contention after missing the last six matches. United will be looking to join both Arsenal and Manchester City in the semi-final of the tournament, one which they are defending this season. Chelsea and Bournemouth are the other two sides in contention for a place in the semi-final, which could see only Premier League teams remaining in the competition.

Mourinho has tried different formations this season and the 3-4-2-1 (variation) could be something his side adopts in Bristol this evening. Paul Pogba is eligible again after serving a three-match domestic suspension after being sent off in the Premier League victory over Arsenal 18 days ago. United’s midfield has been lacking something with the prolific Frenchman on the sidelines and Mourinho, his teammates, and the supporters will be happy to see him return to the fold, especially after seeking him miss around two months of action already this season due to injury.

Starting XI Formation and Prediction (3-4-2-1):

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Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero

The Argentinian goalkeeper has played four times for his club this season, playing 90 minutes three times. Sergio Romero has played in both Carabao Cup matches this season; the 4-1 victory over Burton Albion where he conceded the first goal at Old Trafford this season and was replaced by Joel Pereira (not related to conceding the goal) and the 2-0 victory over Swansea City in October. Romero has also played in two UEFA Champions League matches; the 1-0 defeat to Basel and the 2-1 victory over CSKA Moscow earlier this month. David De Gea, as good as he is this season, will benefit from the rest ahead of the busy festive fixtures which should see the Argentinian back in action against Bristol City.

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Back Three: Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe, Marcos Rojo

Manchester United have Eric Bailly out long-term as he requires surgery but that does not mean United will struggle in defence this season. Mourinho still has Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind as the experienced defenders. Axel Tuanzebe is also a player who could be in contention whilst the Ivorian is on the sidelines. United will still need to defend against Bristol as the Championship side will be seeking a scalp of the Premier League side this evening. Lindelof and Rojo could be in contention with Tuanzebe playing with them in a three at the back formation. It could be enough for United to succeed at Ashton Gate and United should still have the balance on the bench.

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Midfield Four: Matteo Darmian, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Luke Shaw

This is the area United need to be much better in this season. Playing with wing-backs is fine, it is just the midfield where problems can arise. Paul Pogba has missed a lot of the season, sitting out around two months due to injury and being suspended for the last three domestic matches. Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini have been out due to injury; Carrick is fine but needs to be fit to play, which may or may not happen in the immediate future, because of that I have presumed he will not play this evening. Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw could be restored to the flanks – Darmian may not be ideal but with Antonio Valencia coming off early against West Brom and Ashley Young suffering from fatigue, options are not something Mourinho has many of. Shaw should be restored because of the way he has played recently, putting in performances which seem to have changed the manager’s stance on the player – which may have been what he was doing anyway – the media printing BS to cause discontent. Pogba and Scott McTominay could partner each other in midfield, which would be beneficial for both United and McTominay.

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Attacking Midfield: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has missed the last six matches in all competitions after ‘disappearing’ in recent matches. Mourinho has suggested that he could be in contention this evening and he did travel to Bristol. There are rumours about him in the media right now with Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund both said to be interested in signing the Armenian, but right now this is just rumour. Mkhitaryan should be given the chance to win his place back, which is something he could do against Bristol City this evening. His form at the start of the season was great, assisting five times and scoring twice in 17 appearances. Marcus Rashford could partner Mkhitaryan behind the striker with the likes of Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard being utilised recently. There will need to be some significant rotation at this period with United playing three more matches this month (after this one) with another on New Year’s Day.

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Striker: Anthony Martial

Romelu Lukaku has played a lot recently and would benefit from a night off ahead of the Premier League trio of matches against Leicester City, Burnley and Southampton before the end of the month – not to mention the New Year’s Day clash with former club Everton where Lukaku could go head-to-head with former United striker Wayne Rooney. Anthony Martial, a player who had occupied the left flank more often than not this season, could replace the Belgian. Martial prefers to play centrally but if fine playing as a wide-man, cutting in from the left which has seen him score eight goals, assisting six others in 25 appearances this season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is also an option, but he has not featured for United since coming on in the 75th minute against Manchester City on the 10th December, being an unused substitute in the last two matches. As he has only played 61 minutes plus stoppage time this season, I don’t think he will be fit enough to start, let alone play more than half an hour at this moment in time.

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