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Starting XI Prediction: Watford v Manchester United – Premier League 2016/17

Manchester United will play their third game in a week and it would be Jose Mourinho’s most decisive game till date. It is neither a cup final nor is it a big derby but the timing of it is what makes it so critical. Mourinho’s United career started out on a very bright note, winning four out of four competitive games. But this momentum and optimism are soon threatening to turn in to the dark shadow that the last December was. Of course, it is too early to be so negative about all this, but that is how sadly things work these days.

With Mourinho playing his “fringe” players in the game against Feyenoord there was a hope for a lot of them to break through in to the first team starting XI but with the result and how things turned out on the pitch, it doesn’t look good for any of them. Also, the manager would like to go back to his team which helped him to the successful start that he had. With few of his first team players, rested and rejuvenated, he will have the option of going back to what he think his best starting XI is.

Formation (4-2-3-1)

Although the 4-3-3 on Thursday did not work out, the major culprits in its failure were the personnel. It will be interesting to see if he persists with that setup but the probability of switching back to 4-2-3-1 is high, especially since the obvious comeback of the club captain.

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

The Spaniard let in only two goals in his first four games and let three slip past him in the last two. Of course, there wasn’t much that he could have done to stop those shots to end up back in the goal. However, he will be hoping for a quieter day in the nets against Watford.

Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw

Thursday’s game had a lot of terrible performances but what was most evident was the lack of attacking threats from the full backs. Matteo Darmian was ok defensively but had not influence at all going forward. Add to that Juan Mata on the wing, and the wide right-hand side had no attacking outlet at all. This only makes the case for Valencia and Shaw stronger. Valencia might be susceptible defensively but has been good while going forward since the start of the season while Shaw is almost at the level that he was last season. Mourinho will be hoping to see a lot more action from his full backs as compared to what he saw against Feyenoord.

Central Midfield – Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba

Ander Herrera has done very well in both the games that he played but might lose out to Fellaini due to his lesser physical attributes. Fellaini has been doing good under the Portuguese manager so far and might as well deserve to start ahead of others in the midfield. Pogba has been underwhelming so far, apart from his Southampton performance. But as the cliché goes, “Form is temporary, class is permanent”, one shall hope that he hits his stride soon. With the new players to get acquainted with, new system to get adjusted to, players can take a bit of time, yes, even if they are a £89 Million player.

Wingers – Marcus Rashford, Memphis Depay

This one is a bit tricky. Left wing is a position, everyone thought would have the closest competition for, but the first choice for the position, Anthony Martial, has not been in form at all. That gives a chance to the likes of Memphis Depay, who did not do anything great coming on at Rotterdam, but took the game forward and was a little more direct than Martial. Obviously, people will remember the skied volley and over hit free-kick but the player was not as bad as it has been portrayed all over. Also, it is only fair to give him much more than just the last thirty minutes while chasing a game, in order to judge him appropriately. Rashford, on the other hand, was isolated alone up front and maybe would do better working with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and covering the right-wing. His pace and skills are something that the current United side would benefit from.

Number 10 – Wayne Rooney

The captain was left back at home for the Europa League game but should be back in the lineup on Sunday. There are arguments for other players being better than Rooney in his position but is there someone who can be a better captain. He might not be great, but is better than Chris Smalling or Michael Carrick. It is true that with Rooney in the side, the manager might feel restricted in doing certain things, like playing a 4-3-3 but after other players failing to impress the manager in the last game, it is highly probable that Rooney will make his comeback.

Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan came in with around thirty minutes to go in the last game and had some impact, not enough, though. He will be hoping to keep up with his impressive Premier League goal record and get on the scoring sheet Sunday afternoon.

It is the only start of the season but with two defeats back to back, this United team cannot afford another slip-up, the team knows it and so does the manager. Even though it’s just Watford, the team will have to put in all they have and come out with some inspiring performances. United won’t want to be left too far behind having too much of catching up to do.

Written by Chinmay Padhye

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