Starting XI Prediction: Manchester United v Southampton – Premier League 2016/17

Manchester United are all set to begin their Jose Mourinho campaign at Old Trafford and there is only one question on everyone’s mind – Will HE play? Will Paul Pogba make his debut? Hearing and looking at what Mourinho had to say about his match fitness, it certainly seems to be the case. Of course, the manager will not give a black and white answer as that would mean giving away part of his strategy but it looks like Pogba is set to make his second debut, as many have been calling it, for United at Old Trafford on Friday.

There is a possibility that the French national might come off the bench but United are now almost spoilt for midfield choices. In the past few games Mourinho has switched and changed his midfielders and with Pogba nearing match fitness it might change again for the upcoming game. The manager did say in his press conference, that he will not change his system drastically to accommodate any player but there will be details which might vary to play to the player’s strengths. This might mean that he might have a different build up to his play in spite of employing the same 4-2-3-1.

Starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

The Spaniard will be Mourinho’s first choice keeper, especially in the Premier League and will most probably be a part of all the league games. There is no denying the fact that he is one of the best if not the best keeper in the world right now and not having him on the team, when fit, doesn’t seem logical at all.

Defenders – Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, and Luke Shaw

The United back line has been as solid as it can get in the two competitive games that they have played. The full backs have been impressive going forwards, especially Valencia, who has been a surprise of sorts for the season so far. Shaw on the other flank is getting to his last season’s form as well. Defensively, the youngster can get a little better but that should come with more games and training. The central defenders have been another pleasant surprise. Blind, who was supposedly tipped to leave the team in the transfer season has played all the games since the pre-season and has only impressed. He has been an excellent match to the physical and head-on approach of Bailly. The former Villarreal defender has immediately gained fan’s trust and rightly so, especially after two back to back man of the match performances. This combination of physical play of Bailly and intelligent ball play of Blind, has seemed very balanced and pleasing on the eye. It would be interesting to see, now, how Chris Smalling makes a comeback in to this defense.

Central Midfielders – Michael Carrick and Paul Pogba

Marouane Fellaini had a very good game against Bournemouth and had equally impressive stats to show for it but with Paul Pogba, who offers what Fellaini does plus a lot more, might mean that they both won’t start alongside each other. Carrick is an excellent option to shield the backline while supporting Pogba, who will most probably have the freedom to be a box to box midfielder. As the manager said he might not be fit enough to play 90 minutes, he might make way to Fellaini or Ander Herrera, depending on what the match situation is.

Wingers – Henrik Mkhitaryan and Memphis Depay

Mkhitaryan has not featured a lot in the two competitive games played so far. With enough training, it might now be time to start him ahead of Mata, who undoubtedly has been good so far, or Jesse Lingard, who has recovered but might need more time to get back to match fitness. Mkhitaryan was played in the number 10 role against Wigan Athletic and was sensational in it, but with Wayne Rooney in the side, that role is more or less taken. Anthony Martial might be brought on off the bench in this game given his decent but not too impact making performances so far. Memphis on the other hand has looked assured in whatever few minutes he has played. Even though it is too early to say, Martial has failed to have a similar effect as he had in the last season, the reason of this can be anything from lack of football in the past couple of months to his personal life which is doing the buzz in the social media right now. But it might seem a good idea to let Memphis have a go and him coming off the bench for the upcoming fixture.

Number 10 – Wayne Rooney

Rooney, in spite of scoring in the last game, had a terrible outing. It remains to be seen for how long will he be persisted with but Mourinho isn’t the type of manager who will be afraid to take an infamous decision. However, he won’t drop the club captain only after one league game too, so Rooney will most probably start this game too. He is one player who doesn’t have a clear position in this team as the midfield has been ruled out by the manager, so it will be interesting to see how Mourinho deals with him.

Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

With a goal on his United debut, competitive United debut and league debut, Zlatan has already been off to a flier. He looks hungry to prove himself and seems to be picking others around him too. A character like his will make a huge difference in how the team behaves under pressure or when things don’t go their way. With him in the squad the youngsters now have a role model to look up to.

In Southampton, United have a tricky opposition, an opponent who have beaten them on both the occasions at Old Trafford in the past two seasons. However, the managers have changed on both the sides and considering Mourinho’s excellent home record, United fans would like to believe that their team can start off the home campaign on a good note too. Old Trafford, here they come!

Written by Chinmay Padhye


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