Manchester United travel to Wales to face Newport County in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup at Rodney Parade on Sunday afternoon. United seem to have started 2024 in good form with one victory and one draw in the two matches played so far – a corner turned this season?
Erik ten Hag has seen a number of injured players return to the squad but has also lost some players to the African Cup of Nations with players also being loaned out through the month of January. But the squad seems to be much stronger now that players are back in the squad.
Newport have beaten Oldham Athletic, Barnet and Eastleigh in the three rounds of the FA Coup they have participated in this season, playing replays against both Barnet and Eastleigh to welcome United to the Rodney Parade this weekend. United have beaten Wigan Athletic so far in the cup.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;
Antony, Fernandes, Garnacho;
Altay Bayindir signed for United in the summer and has not yet made his debut for the club. That is going to change on Sunday with the Turkish goalkeeper starting against Newport County in the FA Cup. It will be a big game for the goalkeeper – an occasion that he will remember.
This season, United have not really been in safe hands with Andre Onana who has conceded 47 goals in all competitions so far this season – which is terrible. Granted, the Cameroonian has not had a settled defence in front of him, not a settled midfield with United having injury problems.
But a good goalkeeper should be able to get the best out of the players in front of him and a lot of his errors have been schoolboy level, which have not helped him either. United need better from their goalkeeper and there is a change that Bayindir can create some competition in goal.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw
United could have a fully fit defence ahead of the clash with Newport in the FA Cup on Sunday. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw will start in the fullback places, which seems both strong players starting and able to feed the ball to the flanks and even cross and create for the attackers.
In the centre of the defence, United could have Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez in action, which has not been the case for the majority of the matches United have played this season. Both players will be seeking to be in good form to get United’s team ticking on the pitch again.
Ten Hag will have a number of players in back up roles in defence for this match with Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire and Willy Kambwala likely to be on the bench. Jonny Evans could have been involved but his current illness marks him as a major doubt ahead of this match, which is a shame.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
United’s midfield has been problematic this season with many injuries across the experienced players in the squad, which has seen a much weaker midfield in show for much of the season. Against Newport, it is possible that it will all change for Ten Hag, and at a great time.
Christian Eriksen and Casemiro could both start for United with both players suffering injuries for various stages of the season so far. United have missed both players with Eriksen having been back for a number of weeks but United had been unable to strengthen the area with those available.
Should changes be required, either throughout the match of with players not fully ready, Ten Hag will have the likes of Kobbie Mainoo, Scott McTominay and Isak Hansen-Aaroen to factor into the squad against Newport. United should have the players to get the much-needed victory in the FA Cup.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Garnacho
The attacking areas of the squad have been poor this season with many United players failing to achieve much on the pitch for the club. Creativity has been poor and the performance in front of goal has not been much better to be fair. This will need to change with injured players back.
Marcus Rashford is ill currently and is a major doubt ahead of the Newport match but Ten Hag should have players to field a team capable of beating the Welsh side. Antony could start on the right-wing once again, but he will need to raise his game and start performing to a high standard.
Bruno Fernandes will start in his favoured number ten position and he will be seeking to raise the level of the squad and get the result that is needed to progress further into the FA Cup this season. Alejandro Garnacho will start on the left-wing, striving to continue his dominance this season.
Rasmus Hojlund is the top scorer for United this season, scoring seven goals in all competitions so far, which is a good return considering the troubles United have suffered with injuries this season. The Danish striker will be seeking to reach double figures during the second half of the season.
Hojlund is a talented striker but needs to cut his teeth in the Premier League. He found it easy to score in the UEFA Champions League this season, despite United exiting the competition in the group stages and not even falling into the UEFA Europa League.
However, in the Premier League, it took time for the Dane to find the back of the net. But now that he has done that, he will be striving to bury more goals into the back of the net helping United succeed this season despite them being out of Europe, the Carabao Cup and unlikely to win the league.
Substitutes: Heaton; Maguire, Dalot, Kambwala; Mainoo, McTominay, Hansen-Aaroen, Forson; Amad
Ten Hag will be able to name nine players on the bench against Newport and despite the likes of Andre Onana and Sofyan Amrabat playing in an international tournament and both Evans and Rashford ill, he should have enough players to assemble a squat that could win.
In goal, Tom Heaton looks set to be the only goalkeeper on the bench, unless youth is trusted. In defence, Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot and Willy Kambwala could be the only defenders on the bench, which could cause problems if there are any more injuries or fitness is not as good as it should be.
In the midfield, Kobbie Mainoo, Scott McTominay, Isak Hansen-Aaroen and Omari Forson could all be available. But United’s attack could be low in numbers with Antony Martial out until April and Rashford’s illness, leaving Amad Diallo as the only experienced attacking player on the bench.
Written by John Walker