Manchester United welcome Arsenal to the Theatre of Dreams in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. Erik ten Hag’s side will be full of confidence ahead of the clash, turning their fortunes around from two opening defeats to winning the last three matches.
At the time of writing, United moved up to fifth in the Premier League after beating Leicester City on Thursday evening with nine points and Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal sitting at the top of the league with 15 points. A victory for United will damage this Arsenal side and improve United’s season.
Only a few weeks ago, United were sat at the bottom of the Premier League after two losses in which they had conceded six goals, scoring one. Now they have won the last three matches, scoring four goals, conceding one and keeping two clean sheets. Ten Hag’s United must continue this way.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia;
Antony, Eriksen, Sancho;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea has face strong criticism in the last few seasons but under Ten Hag, he seems to be becoming a different goalkeeper. Granted, it might not last but now there is competition in Martin Dubravka to take the strain and challenge him for his place.
The Spanish goalkeeper has kept two clean sheets in the last two matches, achieving three victories in the last three matches, turning a corner since those two opening defeats of the season which seemed to damage United, but they put in the effort and turned it around.
Dubravka and Tom Heaton could find themselves playing a minor role this season, Heaton especially, if De Gea keeps his current form and builds upon it. I would imagine that Dubravka will play in the UEFA Europa League and possibly the Carabao Cup, when it starts.
Defenders: Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia
United’s defence has improved massively this season, putting in some great performances over the last three matches. Diogo Dalot had the best match of the season against Leicester City on Thursday, looking almost perfect in both defence and attack.
The central defensive pairing of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez has been great to watch. The Frenchman does what he does silently in the background, keeping the lines clear and putting his effort in the right places. The Argentinian is a warrior last seen in Nemanja Vidic.
It is great to see United’s defence at last looking strong and a battle for any opposition. The big tests are yet to come though. Tyrell Malacia has been a breath of fresh air, relieving Luke Shaw of his position and giving him a major hurdle to get it back.
Midfield: Fred, Casemiro
The Brazilian duo could form a partnership at United much like the partnership they have whilst playing for their country. Fred is not a bad player but is only as strong as his midfield partner and with Scott McTominay as that player, it does not make a great combination.
Fred has his uses and he won’t be a permanent fixture to United’s midfield, unless something really sparks the pair and ignites United’s creativity and attack. Casemiro have made two substitute appearances for United this season and will be seeking his full debut.
Obviously, against teams like Arsenal who are playing brilliant football at this stage of the season, there will need to be changes to the midfield. Eriksen could drop back if Fernandes comes on but United also have McTominay and van de Beek, who could help later on in the match.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Eriksen, Sancho
The attacking midfield area has bags of talent at the club this season. Antony is a player that could achieve so much with United if he is given the time to adapt and get up to speed in the Premier League – which is something he is easily capable of.
I believe that Christian Eriksen would be better in the number ten role against Arsenal, leaving Bruno Fernandes on the bench for later in the match, giving both players a bit of a rest. The Dane is talented both on and off the ball and his creativity and supply could be the difference.
Jadon Sancho has scored twice so far this season, scoring five goals in total last season, so everything is looking up for him. He has had a few good performances and a few bad ones, but it will all come good for him, especially with the FIFA World Cup to motivate players.
As Anthony Martial is on the sidelines for an unknown period of time and despite Marcus Rashford playing well when he has led the line, Cristiano Ronaldo needs to be implemented back into the starting XI. Yes, he has slowed down attacks previously but he seemed keen on Thursday.
On his day, he is one of the best attacking players. He might be selfish with the ball and waste attacks but with better players around him in good form will do the world of good and get him excited to achieve things once again.
Granted, he will not play UEFA Champions League football this season but he could help United build something and teach some of the younger players, like Alejandro Garnacho something special to aid their careers at United and beyond. He needs to be given a chance to hit form again.
Substitutes: Dubravka; Lindelof, Maguire; Fernandes, van de Beek, McTominay, Garnacho; Rashford, Elanga
Now that the transfer window has closed, United have more depth in the squad especially after the arrival of Martin Dubravka and Antony on deadline day. Both will be eligible to face Arsenal this weekend. Ten Hag has used just three substitutes in the last two matches.
On the bench, Dubravka could make his first appearance for United on the bench. In defence, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw doubts, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire should both be available – in case defensive reinforcement is needed.
In midfield, Fernandes (who should be benched for this match, coming on if needed), Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay and Alejandro Garnacho could be available. In attack, both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga could be called upon, if required.
Written by John Walker