After, what seems like a very long period of the off-season, football is back on the horizon. With just a week to go for the Premier League season to start, the football fans will be gearing up to look forward to their teams fighting it out in the Premier League. But Manchester United fans have a little more to cheer for as their team will be getting ready to grind it out for the first trophy of the season.
Jose Mourinho has stressed upon the fact that the pre-season preparations have been far from ideal, all due to one wasteful week in China. But with no more pre-season friendlies to go, he will have to do away with whatever he could manage to pull out in the past few weeks. The FA Community Shield, although doesn’t feature at the top of any trophy cabinet, is, after all, a game to have the first trophy of the season. Considering these aspects, the game tomorrow will be far from a preparatory game and Mourinho, too, accepted the fact.
With a few games and some minutes under their belt, the team now has to go out and perform as a unit and it might be a tough ask. But keeping all the doubts and shortcomings aside, Mourinho would want his squad to go out and give their best to get home their first trophy. The manager would have had a look at the team in the previous few games and would have a rough idea of who his regular starters would be. Here is the possible starting XI based on what has been on display for last few games.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
Mourinho did play Sergio Romero in the last couple of games, but considering that this isn’t a friendly anymore and has limited substitutions, De Gea will be the chosen one between the sticks. There is no doubt that the Spaniard will always be the first name on the sheet for most games and it certainly looks to be the case for this.
Full Backs – Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw
Valencia has looked a different player under Mourinho for the last couple of games. Taking on his defender and putting in decent crosses is not what one was used to seeing from Valencia, however, he has looked a lot better this (pre)season. Shaw, who is back from a horrific injury, is looking to pick up the form from last season. A few runs against Everton were reminiscent of last year. This United side will be on a whole different level, attacking wise, if Shaw gets back his form from last season.
Central Defenders – Daley Blind and Eric Bailly
Chris Smalling has only joined the training a couple of days back, which might mean that he will not be up there on the fitness levels with others and might have to sit this game out, or at least on the bench. Blind and Bailly, who have looked decent for the most part of the pre-season, might be persisted with. Other two options of Phil Jones and Marcus Rojo, just doesn’t exude that confidence anymore, so it looks like Bailly and Blind for now.
Central Midfielders – Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera
Things might change in this department in a couple of weeks time but for now, the formation will see two holding midfielders. However, Herrera might get some freedom to make aggressive runs with Carrick being the one providing the defensive cushion to the back line. Schneiderlin, who is another option in this area, has not had a lot of footballing action in the past couple of months and hence might be eased in to the squad rather than throwing him in to the deep end.
Wingers – Anthony Martial and Henrik Mkhitaryan
The fans, in the pre-season games, have not yet seen the Martial of last season. But that is understandable keeping in mind the long holiday and lack of pre-season practice. In spite of that, he remains United’s best option on the left-wing, much ahead of Memphis Depay for now. The right side is where things will turn interesting. Jesse Lingard, who was used in this position for the most part of last season might have to come off the bench more often than the last time. Mkhitaryan is more than capable of working in a lot of position across the front line but considering the resources that Mourinho has, he might want to play him on the right-hand side of the wing.
Number 10 – Wayne Rooney
The club captain, who had his testimonial game three nights back, will like to start his campaign with a bang. A slow starter that he is, he won’t have the luxury of easing in to the season anymore, especially due to the talent that will be sitting on the bench. With Juan Mata and Mkhitaryan breathing down his neck, he would be hungry to show why he is the club captain. So far in the pre-season, he hasn’t been exceptional, apart from one decent half against Galatasaray. Hopefully, for him and United, things will start falling in to place soon.
Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan was one of the few players on the pitch against Everton who looked to have an impact every time he had the ball at his feet. The only thing that might need some work is his coordination with Rooney. On numerous occasions against Everton, both Zlatan and Rooney dropped deep into the midfield to pick up the ball. This left a lot of hollow space up top and that might make the final third transition bit difficult. However, these are early days and things should only get better on the communication and coordination front.
Possible Substitutions – Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin, Juan Mata, Memphis Depay, Marcus Rashford