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Starting XI Prediction: Marouane Fellaini to start over Ander Herrera in the game of “returns”!

This is going to be pitched as a story of big return. With Everton playing Manchester United this weekend, Wayne Rooney will come back to play at Old Trafford as a non-United player after what seems like an eternity. It’s been a little more than 13 years since Rooney signed for United and the upcoming game will be overshadowed by the very fact that he is returning as an opposition player after so long. But Jose Mourinho has to make sure that his players do not get carried away with all this hype and have their eyes on what matters more, the three points to stay top of the league.

Champions League made a return to Old Trafford on Tuesday this week and it was a decent performance by the Reds, something that would have boosted the morale and confidence of the team. One thing that wouldn’t have helped though is the injury to Paul Pogba. Pogba has been pretty influential in the midfield this season but in his absence, Manchester United would now have to look for an alternative. It obviously also gives other players an opportunity to come in to the side and make a statement for themselves, something that Ander Herrera would be itching to do. With a lot of rotation in the last game, it would be interesting to see if Mourinho changes it back.

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

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

The Spaniard just kept his 100th clean sheet for Manchester United and it is no surprise now that he managed to reach this milestone. The only way he would not have been able to do it was if the fax machine had worked well on that fateful night. But it did not and De Gea is here making those outstanding and almost inhuman saves for United.

Full Backs – Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young

Valencia was rested for the game against Basel in the Champions League and was replaced by Young, who put in a performance worthy of a Man of the Match award contender if not the winner. With Valencia making the starting XI, Mourinho might be tempted to try out Young at left back where he has already played him on multiple occasions. Young’s constant and most common criticism has been his wayward or non-consequential crossing. But with Romelu Lukaku, who has shown how good he is in the air, in the box, it might be interesting to see if any of those Young crosses actually see the back of the net. Nevertheless, it is a chance worth taking and Mourinho might go for it.

Central Defenders – Eric Bailly, Phil Jones

There is no doubt that Bailly, in spite of an uncharacteristically lose performance, comes straight back in to the starting XI. He along with Jones had formed a formidable partnership since the start of the season yielding three back to back clean sheets. They would be eager to show that it was no fluke and last game was just an anomaly.

Central Midfielders – Marouane Fellaini, Nemanja Matic

Matic has been a real rock sitting in front of that defense and is equally responsible for those clean sheets at the start of the season. He might just be the first person of the Starting XI list, well, may be second behind De Gea. The real surprise, however, has been Fellaini. He was simply outstanding against Basel. When Pogba limped off with his hamstring injury some of the supporters might have had a few niggling doubts in the back of their minds. But Fellaini came to the rescue and not only did he score but also contributed immensely to the midfield. He was excellent going forward but also while tracking back or breaking play by intercepting the ball. That performance alone grants him the right to come right back in the starting XI. Herrera has not played a lot this season and Mourinho also has an option of playing him but with Fellaini’s last performance Herrera might have to come off the bench if needed.

Wingers – Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata

Mata and Rashford have been Mourinho’ go-to wide players so far in the Premier League. With Anthony Martial not really shining as brightly as he would have liked to in the last game, Rashford might sneak in ahead of him. It might just be another scoring cameo off the bench for Martial (fingers crossed). Mata, on the other hand, has been very consistent with the level of his performances. He has not been on the scoring sheet as much as other forwards but he has been essential in creating those final moves which end up as a chance. He is United’s creative outlet and he has not disappointed so far this season.

Number 10 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Mkhitaryan has been doing pretty well in terms of assists and his goal contribution since the beginning of this season but he himself must feel at times that he can do a lot more. On far too many occasions, he tries to do a lot of it by himself and ends up losing the possession. In spite of that he has been able to create chances consistently and along with Mata has been instrumental in breaking up opposition defenses.

Striker – Romelu Lukaku

With Rooney playing against United, there is another story of Lukaku playing against Everton. With both the strikers playing against their former employers it would be interesting to see who comes out on the top. Lukaku, who has been in good scoring form, netting six goals in six games for the red devils so far, would like to keep his perfect record intact.

Manchester United are playing good football at the moment but must have been frustrated by the two dropped points against Stoke City, which broke their three-game winning streak. It is, therefore, more essential for Jose Mourinho’s men to get all the three points against the Everton side so that they don’t lose out on the momentum that they gathered at the start of the season. Mourinho needs to make sure that his players know this and that not even a single minute of a game is taken lightly. Let’s hope that United gets through this game and the rest of the month unscathed and hopefully still at top of the league.

Written by Chinmay Padhye

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