After their fourth draw in as many home games, Manchester United will play in the quarterfinals of the EFL Cup against the very same opponents from Sunday. West Ham United and United will lock horns again, however, this time in the league cup. If the Premier League game was anything to go by, West Ham will probably sit back and let United come at them and try their luck at counter attacks. But United will need to come up with a solution to this tactic if they want to make any inroads in the tournament. To make things worse, the Red Devils will be without services of their midfield engine, Paul Pogba, due to his fifth yellow card in the game last night.
However, things might get even worse for United, if Jose Mourinho is given another match ban before the Wednesday’s game. Nothing is going right at the moment for Mourinho and his team but they can start to better the situation by winning the game on Wednesday. This isn’t an important or a crucial tournament but the current United team needs a win to boost their morale, which must be pretty low after the draw last night. But for that to happen, Mourinho needs to pick right balance between rotation and stability, keeping in mind the fact, that the players played a game only three days before the upcoming game and will play another in four days time. These tournaments are becoming more of a nuisance for the team than any motivation. But now that they are a part of it, they will have to put in a decent performance as failing to do so will result in another wave of criticism from the media, adding to the pressure and frustration of the team. So here is how we feel Mourinho might line up his men.
Starting XI (4-1-4-1):
Goalkeeper – Sergio Romero
Romero is doing good with whatever few chances he is getting. Against Feyenoord too, he only had two saves to make but both of them were crucial and great saves. If that would have gone in, things would have been far different for United. He is knocking on the door for some time now and might be put ahead of De Gea, giving the Spaniard some resting time.
Back Four – Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw
Antonio Valencia has played three games in ten days since his come back from the injury. Although he seems comfortable and has been one of United’s best player in those games, Mourinho might want to give him some rest ahead of the busy December period. Darmian might be put back to his original position while Luke Shaw can continue regaining his match fluency and improve his performances. With Phil Jones, too, playing several games on the trot, the manager might be tempted to rest him for the game and let Rojo along with Blind handle the central defense.
Defensive Midfielder – Michael Carrick
Carrick was sidelined against West Ham on Sunday, due to a slight injury, but resumed training on Monday so there is a possibility of him starting against the Hammers on Wednesday. Carrick has been a crucial player for the team this season and has been very effective in all the games he has played. He will be hoping to have a similar effect even this time around. The defense gets an additional cushion when they have Carrick and his calming influence in marshaling the line ahead of the defense.
Attacking Midfield – Ander Herrera, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Rooney, who is just a couple of goals away from setting the record for most goals scored at United, is likely to start the game in the advanced midfielder role, almost in the number 10 spot. Mata, who has been one of the in-form players for Mourinho will be hoping to continue his purple patch. The interesting part would be the involvement of Mkhitaryan. It was refreshingly good to see the Armenian play against Feyenoord and also West Ham for the few minutes that he did. The brisk pace at which he proceeds down the pitch is what makes it so interesting. He has impressed a lot in the past two games since his comeback and will be hopeful of starting more often.
Striker – Anthony Martial
This one is more of what we think can be done, instead of what Mourinho might do. Marcus Rashford seems burned out with the amount of football that he has played this season already. It might be time to give him some time off and try something new, like Martial upfront. The Frenchman has been largely ineffective in his performances on the left-wing this season. It might be a good shout to try him up front and see if that position helps him get back to his form from last season. It is a long shot but worth considering.
In spite of it being a knockout game, it is hardly a must win for United. Of course, each game needs to be played to win and pretty sure that is what the players will try and do. But on the degree of significance, the EFL Cup stands pretty low. However, it is worth noticing that this was one of the first trophies that Sir Alex Ferguson’s young team won, after which they went on to dominate the English football for so long. So here’s to history repeating itself!