It only seems like yesterday, that Jose Mourinho was almost “stalked” by photographers and media, camping outside his home, when the news about him taking over the reigns at Manchester United broke. A lot has happened between then and now and the stage is set for the biggest transfer in the recent history to go down. Paul Pogba at United, which even a month back, would have only seemed like a dream, is extremely close to being a reality. This saga has been going on for almost a month now and seems to have reached its conclusion. With all this attention towards the incoming of the former academy player, the closeness to the start of the season has taken a backseat.
It almost needs a reminding, that in just more than a couple of weeks, United will play their first Premier League season game. The pre-season preparations this summer have not been ideal and will definitely affect the player’s rhythm. With an almost useless tour of China, if one ignores the commercial aspect, between the next two games, one in Sweden against Galatasaray and the Wayne Rooney testimonial against Everton, Mourinho does not have much time to put together their best eleven. With almost all the players coming back from their holidays, United for the first time trained with their complete squad and Mourinho will want to see most of his first team probably in action in order for him to strategize for the coming season.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Goalkeeper – Sergio Romero
The first choice backup to David De Gea has not had a lot to show in the two games that United have played. He might start ahead of De Gea, who might make a second half substitution as he needs some minutes, before the season begins, under his belt as well.
Possible Substitution – David De Gea
Full Backs – Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw
With so much to do for Darmian to convince his manager, this game might give him a good opportunity to prove his worth. The Italian defender impressed everyone in his first month in Premier League but has only slackened ever since. Ideally, it would be good to see him in a few games before deciding on the player’s fate at Old Trafford. Left Back needs no guesses with Shaw needing as many minutes as he can under his belt.
Possible Substitution – Antonio Valencia
Central Defenders – Eric Bailly and Daley Blind
Bailly has been pretty solid in the back for both the games that he has played and will look to have some more game time with his new teammates, in order to have the co-ordination and communication going. Blind, who was played as a holding midfielder against Borussia Dortmund, might have to assume his last season’s role. Looking at how inept Marcus Rojo has been he might not be the preferred center back.
Possible Substitution – Phil Jones
Central Midfielders – Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera
The Frenchman, one amongst the several players back from his holidays just this week, needs to get some minutes of on-field action in order to get back in to the groove. Herrera, who has played in earlier friendlies might be given another go in order to cement his position. Also, there are not many options for Mourinho to play in this area of the field as all the squad is not traveling to Sweden. Marouane Fellaini, who seems to be everyone’s favorite to be the first to leave United, might also get a look in as a substitute.
Possible Substitution – Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini
Wingers – Henrik Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial
With the “waste of money” back, the left-wing is all his. This game would seem like a good chance for him to test his fitness levels and readiness. Mkhitaryan, who played a more central role in the number 10 position, might take the right-wing this time, with the possible return of Wayne Rooney to the starting eleven. Mkhitaryan is a player who can play in all the four front position and that is something that Mourinho will be happy about. This versatility gives Mourinho the flexibility to move players around. However, he would be looking to finalize one position for him before the season gets underway.
Possible Substitution – Memphis Depay
Number 10 – Wayne Rooney
The club captain is back for some time now but was not played in the game against Dortmund. He would now be looking to go out on the pitch and get back his position, which let’s face it, is under scrutiny. A good run and quick off the block start is what Rooney needs in order to be a consistent part of this team. He will want to get going right from the game tomorrow.
Possible Substitution – Juan Mata
Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan has started the preparation for his comeback and could be the biggest name on that starting XI sheet tomorrow. The game being played in his home country makes it all the more special for the player and he would like to make a flying start to his “Red Devils” career. The marquee signing, although arrived for free, will be very crucial for United’s success in the coming season. Given the scarcity of goals the last season, this is one area United needs to focus on and Zlatan is as good a solution to this problem as there can be.
Possible Substitution – Marcus Rashford