On the back of a thumping 4-1 victory against West Ham United in the EFL Cup, Manchester United will travel to Goodison park to face Everton in a nicely set up Premier League clash. Everton, much like United are also looking for a win to bring their League season back on track. With both the sides so eager to grab those three points it will probably end up being a close game. Jose Mourinho, who watched the EFL cup game from an undisclosed location, will be available on the touchline for the team in this game and will be hoping not only for a similar performance but also for a similar result.
Mourinho is currently spoilt for choices in the attacking options that he has got. Even with two games a week, he has a lot of unused players in that department. The only thing that the supporters are worried about is the strong XI that started in the cup tie. Mourinho seems to be rating both the Europa League and the EFL Cup higher than everyone else and hence has been playing a pretty strong XI’s in those games. However, for some weird reason, the League XI’s after the cup and Europa fixtures have not been as strong. One would hope that it is not the case this time around and Mourinho sticks to his best starting XI, even if it means sticking with same players who played on Wednesday.
Starting XI (4-1-4-1):
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
De Gea made a mess of the Dimitri Payet shot which resulted in the only West Ham goal in the previous game. He has not been up to the level that the footballing world has seen him at in the past couple of years. However, Mourinho will still have his confidence in his number one and most probably will keep his starting position.
Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Marcus Rojo, Daley Blind
Mourinho talked about how no one in this team is “untouchable” like there were a few in Mourinho’s Chelsea team. If he was to answer that question now, he might want to include Valencia in that list. He has been a completely different player from what we have been used to seeing from him since maybe 2012. But this managerial change has brought about a tremendous improvement in him, not just defensively but attacking wise too, in fact, more so. Talking about improvement, Rojo and Jones have proved every doubter of theirs wrong so far. Rojo, especially, has improved by leaps and bounds. Jones too has been showing his real capabilities and one can only hope that they keep this coordination and association as tight as ever. Blind might retain his position after Luke Shaw was substituted halfway through in the last game. Darmian is also another option, but Blind gives you an additional dimension to design a play from the back.
Defensive Midfielder – Ander Herrera
Herrera took up the mantle of being the aggressive midfielder, that he naturally is, in the last game in Paul Pogba’s absence. But with Pogba coming back to the squad, it is highly likely that Herrera will be replacing Michael Carrick in his role of holding midfielder. Mourinho has been very careful about playing Carrick and he might want to rest him considering the amount of game he has played since the last international break. Herrera has been another tremendous player for Mourinho and should be able to deal with the responsibilities without any issues.
Central Midfield – Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial
With Herrera dropping in to the center of the field, Lingard might be brought back to the team, with Mkhitaryan shifting a little centrally. Wayne Rooney who was excellent in the last game will not be part of this game and Mata can replace him in the advanced midfielder role. Mata has been a revelation under Mourinho. He and Mkhitaryan in the middle can bring the depth and creativity to United’s final third play. The left flank has to be occupied by Martial. He was looking knackered and lost in his previous few performances. A few tough words and lot of training later, Martial seems to be back. It is too early to tell as it was just one game but the movement, the eagerness to take people on and succeeding at it, is back. HE must be bursting with confidence and would not want to wait to get on the pitch. Starting him will aid his confidence further and who know, we might actually see the same Martial from last season.
Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The former Swedish international has come under some criticism for not finishing off his chances a few weeks back. However, he has been doing well for himself since the Swansea City game. However, his link up play and the chance creation has suffered a bit in these past few games. But it has only been a couple of games and he deserves a little benefit of the doubt for now. Also, who cares for chance creation if he can score a brace in these games.
Like it has been for past three or four games, this is another must win for United. They are already eight points off the fourth spot and eleven points off the top. The league has almost slipped out of their hands but looking at the performances, top four still seems to be open. But for that to happen, United need a winning streak, something that Chelsea are enjoying since their slump earlier in the season. Can Mourinho come up with that and do United players have it in them to fight back from the difficult place that they are in?