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Preview: The end of the season cometh; will Manchester United use youth over petulance?

Manchester United -v- Cardiff City

Premier League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Sunday 12 May 2019; KO 15:00 BST

Referee: Jonathan Moss

Manchester United will host already-relegated Cardiff City at Old Trafford on Sunday in the final Premier League match of the season. Both teams are in poor form but United, who will be embarking on another rebuilding process this summer, will be seeking to end the season with a bit of a high, despite the poor form, playing style and lack ability, determination and desire of late.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be boosted with the fact that Mike Phelan has committed to the cause for three years in signing a new contract as the clubs assistant manager but there is plenty of work for both ahead of what will be seen as a busy summer. Beating Cardiff is necessary to end the season with better intentions which the supporters deserve.

This Sunday, the only races in the Premier League will be between Manchester City and Liverpool for the title and between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal to finish inside the top four. United could, of course, finish fifth in the league this season with a win over Cardiff, however, Arsenal will need to draw or lose against Burnley for that to happen.

Form: Cardiff City have already been relegated and United need a boost to end the season on a (slight) high before the rebuilding process starts to begin this summer

Manchester United: DDLLLW

Huddersfield Town 1-1 D, Chelsea 1-1 D, Manchester City 2-0 L, Everton 4-0 L, Barcelona 3-0 L, West Ham United 2-1 W

United has a very poor record heading into the final match of the season. One win, two draws and three defeats in the last six matches. Four goals scored, 12 goals conceded, no clean sheets and a squad which (largely) seems out of touch with reality. Form is temporary and class is permanent but there is a big job ahead to bring any class back.

Cardiff City: LLLWLL

Crystal Palace 3-2 L, Fulham 1-0 L, Liverpool 2-0 L, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 W, Burnley 2-0 L, Manchester City 2-0 L

Cardiff City saw themselves relegated to the Championship last weekend after a 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace. It was a poor season for the Welsh side and it will mean that no Welsh sides will play a part in the Premier League for the first time since the 2011/12 season (Swansea City). Cardiff have scored four goals, conceded 10 with one clean sheet in six matches.

Top Scorers: United’s players have scored many goals this season but seem to have hit a wall. Now is the time they start scoring again, rewarding the supporters as they are the real reason that they’re all millionaires

Manchester United: 16 – Paul Pogba, 15 – Romelu Lukaku, 13 – Marcus Rashford, 12 – Anthony Martial, 6 – Juan Mata, 5 – Jesse Lingard, 3 – Ander Herrera, 2 – Marouane Fellaini, Scott McTominay, Alexis Sanchez, Ashley Young, 1 – Fred, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Andreas Pereira, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling

Cardiff City: 5 – Víctor Camarasa, Bobby De Cordova-Reid, 4 – Sol Bamba, Callum Paterson, 3 – David Junior Hoilett, Josh Murphy, 2 – Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, 1 – Bruno Ecuele Manga, Aron Gunnarsson, Kadeem Harris, Sean Morrison, Danny Ward, Kenneth Zohore

Team News: Youth to be given a chance against Cardiff City but players such as Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata, and Ander Herrera will also want to say goodbye to the Old Trafford faithful if they all leave the club this summer

Solskjaer currently has many players on the sidelines. It is suggested that Romelu Lukaku (hamstring), Anthony Martial (knock), and Alexis Sanchez (ankle) are all doubts for this match, whereas Jesse Lingard (knee) could be back in action. Mason Greenwood (knock) should be involved in the match.

It was also confirmed that Antonio Valencia (calf) has been training for a few weeks and could have a good send-off in what will be his final match at the club as he will leave in the summer. Eric Bailly (knee) is out of this match and Sergio Romero (knee) has been training but could still be a doubt. United could field a number of youth players in this match.

During the last few days, Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, James Garner, Angel Gomes, Arnau Puigmal and Dylan Levitt have all been training with the first team at the Aon Training Complex in Carrington. It is not expected that all of these will be involved in this match but Solskjaer has confirmed that some young players will be given a chance.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock currently has six players on the sidelines through injury; Sol Bamba (ACL), Matthew Connolly, Callum Paterson (both ankle), Harry Arter (calf), Joe Ralls (hamstring), and Victor Camarasa (dead leg), who could be subject to a late fitness test this weekend.

Predicted Starting XI: Giving youth a chance to shine in what will be seen as a meaningless fixture will not only point towards the future but it could send a message to those who think they are bigger and better than the club!

Solskjaer will need to make some changes to his team to face Cardiff City. Previously, the manager has said that he will be ruthless and last weekend, he stated that some players will be cleared out in the summer, saying; “I can’t talk about individuals now, but there is the chance you have seen the last of players.”

With this in mind, I think it would be time for Solskjaer to think ahead to the future and do what previous managers have done in the final fixture of the season – giving youth a chance to perform for the club. What is the worst that could happen? These young and hungry players embarrassing the likes of Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba et al, showing how footballers should be performing for their club.

Match Prediction: United unbeaten in their last eight matches against Cardiff City with runs back to the 1960s

Manchester United and Cardiff City have played 30 competitive matches. United has won the most matches with 15 victories, drawing eight and losing just seven times. United are unbeaten against Cardiff in their last eight matches, going back to 1961. United beat Cardiff 5-1 earlier in the season, Solskjaer’s first match as manager.

Manchester United 3-1 Cardiff City

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