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How Manchester United could look in a 4-3-3 against Chelsea at the Theatre of Dreams

Manchester United will go head to head with reigning Premier League champions Chelsea at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday afternoon. Earlier in the season, United were beaten, again, by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It was only a 1-0 defeat, so an improvement on the 4-0 defeat in the fixture last season.

Last season at Old Trafford, United won 2-0. A result which came out of nowhere with Ander Herrera man-marking Eden Hazard, nullifying him from the match. This weekend, Herrera will be out of action due to an injury sustained in the 0-0 draw with Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening.

Starting XI Formation and Prediction: Mourinho to set up in a 4-3-3 formation against his former club?

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Goalkeeper: David De Gea

The Manchester United and Spain number one is earning his plaudits this season. The save he put in from a Luis Muriel shot before half-time was one of his best saves this season, possibly in his United career. De Gea has kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season, 15 with is two more than Chelsea counterpart Thibaut Courtois.

De Gea’s importance at the Old Trafford club has grown over the years. Many will see a great performance by a goalkeeper as something negative, meaning the team has been slammed by the opposition. Goalkeepers like De Gea are the beat in the world because of this. If he was never tested at a high level, the label ‘best in the world’ would be something unproven.

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Back Four: Antonio Valencia, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw

United’s defence needs to find some consistency during the next three Premier League matches, in which two are against Chelsea and Liverpool. United have been pushed into second place in the league after Liverpool beat West Ham United 3-1 at Anfield, meaning beating Chelsea is even more important – as it will be to beat Liverpool at Old Trafford in a fortnight. Antonio Valencia is the best right-back at the club this season and Luke Shaw is the best left-back.

Whether Jose Mourinho agrees is a different story but he has praised Shaw in recent weeks. The central defence is a precarious position as there are many injuries with Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind out injured. This leaves Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, and Eric Bailly – who is only just back from injury himself. Lindelof and Bailly need to play together at a high level. Starting both against Chelsea would be a baptism of fire, maybe.

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Midfield Three: Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba

United’s midfield is not as strong as it could be this season. There is also fatigue which could be playing a part. Nemanja Matic has played the majority of matches this season, having a rest from time to time. I expected him to be rested against Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League but was criticised on Twitter for even making that suggestion. I have picked him here but I think it might be Michael Carrick who steps in as he was not part of the travelling squad to play in Spain this week.

Saying that United do have a week before their next match, away to Crystal Palace on Monday 5th March which will give them seven consecutive days to prepare for the match. With Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini out of action due to injury, Scott McTominay will be tasked with another match this week, which will be great for his development. Many suggest Paul Pogba will be benched again but playing him after being praised by Mourinho for his quickness to get warmed up after Herrera’s injury suggests to me that he will play against Chelsea – he needs to and play well at that.

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Forward Three: Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez

United have many attacking players in the squad who are fit to play. Marcus Rashford is one of those after making his return against Sevilla. Jamie Redknapp stated that Rashford is a victim at Old Trafford after the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, seeming to forget that he has not been involved recently due to injury, not being overlooked by the manager. I think Juan Mata may be picked over Rashford, but that will depend on how the 20-year-old has trained and recovered from his return from injury.

I have picked Anthony Martial to lead the line to take some pressure off Romelu Lukaku, who has scored 21 goals in all competitions this season but is maybe in need of a break to recharge his batteries. Lukaku has put in some good performances and despite the lack of service, has done well at times. Martial has been benched with Alexis Sanches playing on the left-wing, or the Frenchman is played out of position on the right, not a strong area for him. Sanchez could occupy a place on the left, which may mean Luke Shaw is exposed, with Sanchez not tracking back.

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