Can Jose Mourinho make it three in three? Manchester United will travel to Hull City on Saturday in the third game week of the season and looks far more assured and exciting than they have looked in the past three seasons. It has been an exciting little period since the Community Shield game and the Reds are making progress, slowly but surely. But with only two games in the season, there is a lot to improve and ponder upon.
United will play Hull City, who are currently in an elite company of Chelsea and Manchester City, along with United, who have won all their season fixtures so far. Irrespective of whether one treats them as a threat, they can surely be counted as a formidable opposition, at least on basis of their form in past few weeks. However, these should be three points that United should win with some ease but Mourinho will have to be precise and bang on with his starting XI and tactics. With the midfielders that the manager has at his disposal, he has more than one combination available to play with. But should he change his winning combination?
Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
It looks like 4-2-3-1 would be Mourinho’s default formation unless there is something specific that he wants to do for certain oppositions. But for Hull City, it might just remain 4-2-3-1.
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
This is a no-brainer; when completely fit, there won’t be any other keeper ahead of the Spaniard in the pecking order. He has not had much to do in the first two games and would like to have it that way.
Defenders – Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, and Luke Shaw
Any successful squad needs to have a strong and stable base. With the back four performing like they have been, it certainly looks like they are all here to stay and Chris Smalling will have a tough job, to get ahead of Bailly or Blind. Valencia and Shaw have both been an excellent threat going ahead and putting in crosses but at the same time have also been secure at the back, most of the time. Bailly and Blind have been an excellent fit to each other and seems to have already formed a good partnership. There shouldn’t be any change in this part of the field given how consistent they all have been in the past three weeks.
Central Midfielders – Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba
There has been a lot of discussion around who should be put beside Pogba. Frankly, Fellaini, no matter his history, has been pretty good (tempted to say excellent) in his position and if last game’s display was anything to go by, can play an excellent cover-up partner for Pogba. Mourinho has been pretty clear about giving the Frenchman the freedom that he seeks. What this means is that most of the team will readjust their positions with respect to Pogba’s. Fellaini did that “to the T” in the last game and is very quickly becoming the favourite to start alongside the maverick midfielder. Pogba was excellent with his runs, dribbles and passing in his first game and will want to repeat his performance, if not better it. He will usually work as a box to box midfielder which might change based on the game situation like he did the last minutes against Southampton.
Wingers – Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial
Mkhitaryan has not started a game in a long time and with September fast coming, Mourinho would want his new signing to be up to speed and fitness for the upcoming games. The first Armenian Premier League player showed what he brings to the team in the cameo he played last week. Keeping that in mind, along with the minutes that he is short on, he might nudge ahead of Juan Mata, who has been Mourinho’s first choice starter so far. The other flank, which was the main origin of threat the last season, has been surprisingly quiet. Martial has not yet hit the top gear but seems to be getting there slowly. It hasn’t reached a worrying level but if it stays the same in the next few games, he is at the risk of losing his starting spot. But for now, Mourinho will want to prefer the Frenchman.
Number 10 – Wayne Rooney
Like it or not, this position will belong to Rooney unless Mourinho decides to put him on the bench. He is the captain of the club and it won’t be easy to put him on the sidelines but if the performance does not improve, there are players, who will be better in the position than Rooney himself, waiting in the wings. For now, with his assist and slightly better performance display last time, he will, in all probability, still start.
Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
There is De Gea at one end and Zlatan on the other. Both ends of the pitch have players who basically pick themselves in the team. Four goals in three games, basically, put you right at the top of the list when the starting XI is picked. The “Swedish hero” has been excellent so far in the season and the red fans will hope for him to keep the form going as long as he can.
With the incoming of season’s first International break, Manchester United are in a good position to register their third win of the season in as many games. It would be the best scenario to go in to the break, especially keeping in mind the fixture that follows the break. The big Manchester Derby is around the corner and Mourinho will want his team to be ready for it, physically as well as mentally.