Starting XI Prediction: Who would make the cut – Mkhitaryan or Mata?

Manchester United have progressed to the ‘Round of 16’ of the Europa League, quarter-final of the FA Cup and won the EFL cup since the last time they played a Premier League game. It has been an eventful past 15 days for United but also very tiresome. With such a heavy-duty schedule, the players and manager, both, would be pretty happy to have the whole week off before they play again against Bournemouth. It is an important game with respect to their table position, as a win will take them finally to the fifth position in the Premier League after several months.

Keeping all this in mind, Mourinho would be hoping to have all his crucial players ready and available for the selection for this upcoming game. With five to six days of rest, he can most probably play his core group of players again. Let’s have a look at what might make up the starting XI for United in the coming game.

Starting XI Prediction (4-3-3):

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

De Gea has got a lot of rest in the past two to three weeks with Sergio Romero stepping in for him. He would, however, be Mourinho’s number one for the game and would want to maintain recent form.

Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind

The back four for United have been shuffled around a bit, sometimes due to form and sometimes due to unavailability. But, with Phil Jones also nearing fitness, the group seems to be completely available. However, with Luke Shaw’s ongoing “exodus” and Jones’s lack of playing time in past few games might mean that Mourinho will stick to these four as his defenders. They also deserve the start considering their performances in the past few months, especially Bailly and Valencia. Smalling, on the other hand, is still making some mistakes which are costing United goals but it is likely that Mourinho will persist with him.

Central Midfield – Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba

Carrick played the second half of the EFL Cup final demonstrating his fitness but was also mostly ineffective. He would like to get back in to this game to show what he is capable of like he has done in several other games this season. Herrera, on the other hand, has been the powerhouse in the midfield, the one which allows Carrick to sit back and Pogba to roam around going on aggressive runs. This seems like the best midfield combination that United have right now and should be utilized to its full potential.

Front Three – Juan Mata, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial

Martial was not that great in the league cup final, but that was the case with almost every player. Hopefully, Mourinho persists with him and keeps him in the starting XI, especially with Blind at left back. Mkhitaryan, who has been out for more than a week now, might make a return but being unsure, I am going with Mata in that left winger(ish) role. He isn’t a traditional winger and usually cuts back in, but in spite of that has mostly been the creative center of the team. There cannot be anyone else but Ibrahimovic leading this united attack. He has almost carried this team single-handedly through in the final and deserves all the credit for the number of goals that he has churned out this season. With a minimum of 16 games to play, the Swedish hero has a lot of time to increase his tally to an even more astounding number.

The last time United played a league game the gaps between the sixth and second spot was reduced to two points. The results of last week’s fixture has made the picture even better for the Red Devils. With Liverpool losing to the defending champions and playing Arsenal this week, United taking all three points will take them a lot closer to the top four. It is a very crucial game for United in that aspect and hopefully, Mourinho’s men will be up for it.

Written by Chinmay Padhye


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