Starting XI Prediction: Will Jose Mourinho persist with Mkhitaryan and Rooney?

After putting in one of their best and complete performances of the season, Manchester United will host West Ham United in one of the crucial Premier League fixture. The importance of this fixture doesn’t stem from the standing of the opposition but considering United’s past three home game results. Although the performances have not been a problem, the results have been a big one. United, effectively, lost six points in these three games considering a number of chances created and the dominance of their play in these games. On the back of such results, it is almost a must win for United.

The problem for Jose Mourinho, however, remains the same; tired players, incomplete recoveries and ill-prepared tactics considering the short number of days between two games. But time is not on Mourinho’s side and he will have to fight against all the odds to keep his team ready and refreshed for each game in the next few weeks. Let’s have a look at what his starting XI might look like keeping in mind the players that took part in yesterday’s Europa League game.

Starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

Spanish number one had a break with Sergio Romero pitching in for the last game. However, with Premier League back, De Gea will be too. It has been quite some time that De Gea has been a part of a winning clean sheet, so will be hoping and looking forward to do that.

Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Marcus Rojo, Daley Blind

Valencia was United’s best player against Arsenal and has been a completely different player under the new manager this season. So has been Jones since his comeback from injury. There were doubters, understandably, but he has held his own till now and will like to put in similar performances. He, alongside Rojo, have been developing a decent center back pairing but will need to improve further if they want to give Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling some competition. Blind, who played at center back last game might replace Luke Shaw, who still looks to be recovering, in the left back role.

Midfielders – Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba

Herrera, who was rested for Europa game, will in all probability make a comeback and might replace Michael Carrick, considering he played two games in the last seven days. Pogba, who had another excellent game, should retain his spot in the squad. Both, Herrera and Pogba have started to compliment each other perfectly and with Carrick at the base seem even more dangerous in a potential midfield three. However, it might be a two-man midfield for this game.

Wingers – Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Mata is currently United’s best player this season. He has been significantly important for United to create and score goals. The creative freedom that he seems to be enjoying under Mourinho, which certainly lacked under Van Gaal, has made a real difference. Put on the other side a certain Armenian who made a comeback to the team in style and the team oozes with creativity. Mkhitaryan was phenomenal against Feyenoord and it was a real surprise he came off without any goals or assists to his name. Mourinho mentioned he brought him off as he thought the player was tired but one reason for it could also be that he wants to utilize him for this game against West Ham. If he does, it will be completely well deserved.

Number 10 – Wayne Rooney

The England team captain faced a lot of flak for his off-field behavior and what a cracking way to answer the critics. Rooney played some really good football and there seemed to be a purpose to his performance against Feyenoord. If it was to prove his critics wrong or answer his doubters, no one will know, but whatever it was, it seemed to work. With one goal and an assist to his name, he moved another goal close to the esteemed record that is currently held by Sir Bobby Charlton. A fired up Rooney is the best Rooney and he certainly seems to be fired up so would be a good idea to start him again.

Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The Swedish hero did not have a great game as per his standards. In spite of a well taken and timed assist for Rooney’s goal, he seemed a little off color through out the game. However, looking at all his other games it can certainly be excused as just one of those days. He would be looking to get back to his usual self and create and score goals for his team.

With six points behind the top four and nine points behind the leaders, United now urgently need a winning streak of sorts. If Burnley, Stoke City or Arsenal was anything to go by, they certainly have the performances for it, just need to bury the chances that come their way. Hopefully, they start doing it soon, for the sake of the club and regaining the lost points.

Written by Chinmay Padhye


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