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Starting XI Prediction: Manchester United kick off their pre-season, possibly without Lukaku?

It has not even been two months since Manchester United played and emerged victorious in their Europa League final. But when there is no football around, even seven weeks can seem as long as seven months. Put on top of it the crazy transfer window, which is aptly called the “Silly Season” and the wait can seem even more challenging. But the wait is almost over and United are all set to kick off their 2017/18 campaign on their pre-season tour to the United States.

By this time last season Jose Mourinho had signed three out of his four signings already, however, things have been a little slow this time around. It was reported that Mourinho wanted to have most of his signings, if not all, ready and available for the pre-season but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In spite of that, the pre-season this time around seems to be working out as it should, unlike the shambles that the last season’s tour was. It will thus be interesting to see how Mourinho approaches the first game of the tour and how would he go about giving most of his squad some game time.

Starting XI Prediction (4-3-3):

United, throughout the last season, played various formations but playing in a 4-3-3 always looked a good proposition. The pre-season would be one of the ways for Mourinho to find out which of the formation would be the best to get the most out of his team. As it has been seen, unlike his predecessor, Mourinho would rather change the strategy to fit the team than to alter a player’s game to fit his plan.

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

Mourinho, while talking to MUTV confirmed that he will play De Gea and Joel Periera in their first game and will alternate them with Sergio Romero over the course of the tour to give every one of them sufficient game time. Most probably it will be De Gea starting with Periera coming in for the second half.

Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Demetri Mitchell

Not a lot of people would disagree that three out of the above four should be in United’s back line for most of the important games. Mourinho, too, might want to see how well can they gel in. Out of the four, Shaw might be the one to take up the left back role once he is fit, that is if he manages to impress Mourinho. But it will be good option to give Mitchell a starting spot so that he can get the feel of playing with these players. Mitchell might be far away from being a regular in the senior squad’s starting XI but this experience might play a big role in his development. Also, looking at the way he played against Crystal Palace in the last game of the season, he doesn’t seem too far off that place on the senior bench.

Central Midfield – Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera

This is one area where United need reinforcements, especially in that defensive midfielder role. With Morgan Schneiderlin gone and Michael Carrick most probably in his last year of United career, there is a need for someone who can do this job. With no one signed for this role yet, we might still see Michael Carrick start the game alongside Pogba and Herrera. This was considered to be the best midfield combination until Carrick burnt himself out and his performances dipped. Pogba and Herrera are going to be crucial if United wants to do well this season. But equally important, for Mourinho, is to find that defensive midfielder.

Front Three – Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial

United struggled to put the ball in the back of the net last season but their attack is something to be very excited about. In Martial and Rashford, they have two of the most exciting young prospects in the league. Add to that the young but consistently proven Premier League striker like Romelu Lukaku and you have a forward three with a potential to outscore any opposition on their day. But Mourinho has confirmed that Lukaku won’t be a part of the first game which might mean that for the tour opener, young Rashford might play up front.

Mourinho will most probably field a whole new XI in the second half and these predictions are nothing more than an educated guess. Regardless of who starts and who comes on in the second half, it is so good to have football and United back in action. Let’s hope the pre-season goes as plan and Mourinho has the team in a decent shape before taking the field for the Super Cup against Real Madrid.

Written by Chinmay Padhye

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