After an important win against Manchester City in the EFL Cup, Manchester United will host Burnley in the hope of adding another three points to their tally. United are currently in an underwhelming seventh position in the table and would certainly like to improve upon their standing. However, the win mid-week over their cross-city rivals would have perked up Jose Mourinho and his boys. But what remains important for the Red Devils is the three points. There have been a few occasions already in the season where the fans are led to think that this victory/game would be the launchpad for United’s season, but that hasn’t really happened yet. The manager will be hoping that it all starts to come together pretty soon.
With so many games crammed into so little time duration, United have a risk of overplaying certain players. In the last game, in spite of being a League Cup game, the opposition meant that Mourinho had to field a relatively stronger side. This meant that the rotation which could have been done for that game was not done and this might force the manager to rest some key players for this game.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
De Gea did not have a lot to do against City, surprisingly. If, and that’s a pretty big if, United’s back four put in a solid performance, De Gea might be in for another relaxing day. But in the absence of Eric Bailly and may be even Chris Smalling, things might not be so easy for the Spain’s number one.
Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw
With United already short on one good center back, one would like to believe that Smalling is back in contention to start. Marcus Rojo who took Smalling’s place in the last game did pretty well, especially considering the expectations that a lot of people had of him. But he is far away from a consistent starting spot if Smalling is fit. Rest of the back four might remain the same. It is necessary that the back four have good communication and understanding of each other. So not too many changes should be expected at the back.
Central Midfielders – Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba
Mourinho might go back to his 4-3-3 formation in order to accommodate what looks like a pretty balanced midfield. Carrick’s experience and clam along with Pogba’s and Herrera’s attacking prowess, United will have a reliable cushion for their defense while two good attacking outlets. Herrera has been the pick of the United players this season, who has been energetic, relentless and positive every-time he has been on the pitch. So much so that a good chunk of the fan-base sees a future captain in him and rightly so. Pogba on the other hand will need to take things as they come. He has been improving over each passing game and he showed some glimpses of what a player like him brings to the team. The glimpses,however, should soon be converted in to full fledged performances.
Forward Three – Juan Mata, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial
With so many games being played on the trot, it makes sense to give the United teenage sensation, Marcus Rashford, some rest. He is currently under a severe threat of burning himself out too early in the season. Instead, Mourinho could bring in another youngster who needs some game time to improve upon, not just his performances but also his confidence. Martial needs to start putting up good performances if he wants to be anywhere near that starting XI that picks itself. This spell of games might be a good option for the Frenchman to shine and get back in his groove. The other flank is an area of interest for a lot of people. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was “snubbed” for the previous game, has been in news for unnecessary reasons. However, hearing what Mourinho had to say about him, it feels as though the manager wants to take his time in bringing the Armenian back in to his starting lineup. Mata has been instrumental in United’s victories so far this season and these impressive numbers makes his case for being a starter. The primary striker for United, this season, has been Ibrahimovic. But he hasn’t been great at taking his chances and that has lead to a lot of frustrated fans.The Swedish, however, was doing, not great, but better than before, in the last game. He did not take his chances to score but his hold up play and key passes to others is what makes him valuable to the team. One would be hoping he just gets one in this weekend, not just to increase the goal tally but also to get the monkey off his back.
Burnley and a few fixtures after that should be must-win games for United. Keeping in mind the six points gap, it is of utmost importance to go on some kind of a winning streak. No disrespect but the next few matches give United a great opportunity to go out on a winning run and get right back in the mix. Will they or won’t they, is what time will tell, but it is high time that the players start showing the consistency that is expected of them.