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Starting XI Prediction: Will injuries force Mourinho to change formation?

Manchester United, on the back of a two weeks break, are entering in to a very busy period of football, in fact calling it busy is a massive understatement. Jose Mourinho’s United will be playing nine matches in a month and the period has started off a rather inauspicious beginning. United will be hosting West Bromwich Albion in another important fixture because there are teams around them who are bound to lose points. It is very important, like the last time and the time before, that United try to capitalize on such game weeks and make a decent progress in terms of their league position. United are yet to play Chelsea at home, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur away so it would be very easy to slide down the list very quickly.

Keeping this in mind the manager would want to take as many points as possible from the other fixtures so that his team will be in a little more comfortable position while facing the “top four” teams. But as mentioned earlier, United have had a terrible International Break in terms of injuries. With Paul Pogba already injured before the break, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Marouane Fellaini were all injured while representing their national teams. Add to the list Ander Herrera and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for being banned due to their respective red cards, United look pretty thin, especially in the midfield. Although, it is interesting to note that Mourinho did not count Fellaini as an unavailable player. Let’s try and predict what might be the starting XI for the game.

Starting XI Prediction (4-3-3):

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

De Gea, who has been back in news for the Real Madrid speculations, will most probably start the game ahead of Sergio Romero, arguably the best backup goalkeeper of the current lot.

Defenders – Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Marcus Rojo, Daley Blind

With two of his central defenders injured, Mourinho might revert to a back four. Valencia has been a standout performer this season, not only for his performances but also for the sheer physical capabilities and willingness to run up and down the pitch for all 90 minutes. The manager might not have any say on his central defenders as there are only two specialists fit enough to start. Blind is another player who can play at the heart of the defense but Mourinho has been more inclined towards playing him in the left back role.

Central Midfield – Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata

This is where things are going to get tricky. Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera are both unavailable for selection and this completely dents the balance of the midfield. In their absence, Mourinho might play Mata in the middle as an attacking outlet while Carrick shielding the back four and Fellaini doing what he does best, chesting the ball around. In Fellaini’s defence, though, he has been decent in the last few outings and Mourinho would be hoping that is the case in this game too.

Front Three – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard

The front three might lack a lot of experience but one thing that they don’t lack is pace. In Lingard, Mkhitaryan, and Rashford, United will have the capabilities of running behind the defense. What will decide the game is how well they finish the chances that come their way. Mkhitaryan did not participate in the last game but Rashford and Lingard showed promising signs, with the latter scoring a worldie. They will want to keep up the same form and intent from the last game and get their team those much-needed three points.

Every game from now to the end of the season is almost a must-win for United if they wish to play Champions League football next season; be it by ending in top four or winning the Europa League. Premier League is still their best bet to qualify for the Champions League but Europa League gives them a chance at another silverware too. When was the last time that United won two trophies in a year, no matter small or big? Keeping all this in mind, Mourinho cannot afford to rotate too much and will want to play the best available players in all these upcoming games. So this was probably the last of a decent rest that these players have had. Next few weeks are going to be tough but that is when great players outshine the good ones. Hopefully, all the ones at United will come through because any slight hiccup now can turn in to a major upset for the Reds.

Written by Chinmay Padhye

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