A loss at home, a hard-fought draw, and a deflating loss; this has been Jose Mourinho’s record at Manchester united in the so-called “big” games. On eve of such results, United will face their cross-city rivals in the league cup game. Yes, it is just a league cup game but it is, after all a derby. Mourinho will surely be wary of it and most certainly would not want to go down twice at home to the old friend of his.
The loss was not the only bad thing that happened to United on Sunday, it was also the injury to Eric Bailly and extreme drop in form for Chris Smalling, the club captain. In wake of these things, there will certainly be some changes ahead of the league derby. It would be interesting to see how Mourinho sets up tactically. Would it be the same conservative approach that he took against Liverpool and he which he tried to take against Chelsea, ruined by the 30-second goal?
Starting XI (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
The keeper had a lot to do on Sunday but at the same time could not do much due to the incompetent defending from the Mourinho side. De Gea will have all his fingers and toes crossed hoping his defenders turn up, right from the second the game kicks off, otherwise it might be even more embarrassing for the hosts.
Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw
One would hope Smalling to be given an off day after that debacle of a performance on Sunday but a critical injury to Bailly means there is only one other defender, Marcus Rojo, who can be used. With all due respect that is not any better than an out of form Smalling. There is an outside chance of Axel Tuanzebe being used in the back line but it might not be that simple for the youngster. With Bailly out, Blind will most probably shift back in center and Shaw can take up his left back role.
Center Midfielders – Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera
Dropping Pogba so soon in to the season will only do him and the team more harm than good. But he might need some rest considering he played all the three games in the last week. He can be used as a substitute depending on the situation in the game but a rest might do him good for the upcoming games, which are now very crucial in order for United to maintain or even close their distance to the top. Carrick is someone who might be needed for a few games considering the lack of experience in the middle. He has been good every time he was put on the field but it has been too less in one’s opinion.
Wingers – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford
There has been a lot of unconfirmed reports going around about Mourinho’s impressions of Mkhitaryan. It can be a good option to use in the derby if he has reached the fitness levels allowing him to play to his top potential. But at the same time, it will also help shut down these news reports. Rashford can be used on the left-wing as he has been used most of the season.
Number 10 – Juan Mata
United have had a good record in this season whenever Mata has started the game. He has also been the creative leader on the pitch whenever used in that number 10 role. It only makes sense to use him consistently to help create better chances for the strikers and also add another potential goal scorer.
Striker – Anthony Martial
It has been a completely different season for Martial. He has not been able to replicate what he did last season. But things, personal and professional, have changed since then and that might be the reason for his dip in form. It might be a good idea to try him in a different position for a game or two and see if that helps him and in turn the team. Martial just has two goals to show this season, out of which one was from the penalty spot. It is high time that the youngster starts showing at least a few glimpses of last season and picks himself up.
This United team have a lot of individuals who have shown a major dip in form from last season and only a few have improved on their last. This has resulted in a lot of inconsistent performances and disappointing results. The Chelsea game was an even big of a shock as it showed the mental fragility of the players and this is something that cannot work at a club as big as United. If these players want to succeed for this club and want to bring the club back to where it was, they have to put in every ounce of their energy and effort and earn that jersey that they wear. Unless this is done, the performances will remain inconsistent. Fortunately, the players have just the right game ahead of themselves to show that they have it in them. Here’s hoping the Red Devils bring their “A” game to the Theater of Dreams this evening and use this game as a launchpad for the rest of the season.