Manchester United return to Premier League action on Thursday evening as they face Tottenham Hotspur at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. United have not placed in the Premier League since their 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest. Over the last week United saw their participation in the UEFA Europa League come to an end with a 5-2 aggregate defeat to Sevilla but reach the Emirates FA Cup final with. 7-6 penalty victory over Brighton and Hove Albion.
Erik ten Hag currently has a problem with injury with both Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez out of action with the Frenchman having a chance to feature in the FA Cup final but the Argentinian seeing out the remainder of the season recovering from surgery. Harry Maguire will be eligible to feature for United against after being suspended in the FA Cup pantry victory over Brighton for two yellow cards in the earlier rounds. United have more options again.
The main problem for United is the lack of goalscoring ability. But that is something that can be overcome with players stepping up and playing for the badge on their shirt. Spurs though – that is a different story. Their 6-1 defeat to Newcastle United has caused more problems for them this season and Christian Stellini ended up being replaced by Ryan Mason for the remainder of the season. United will have a big job against the hurt Spurs side – so will need to push to win.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw;
Antony, Fernandes, Rashford;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea had a great game against Brighton and Hove Albion in the Emirates FA Cup semi final at Wembley on Sunday. He made many saves and just seemed to put in a completely different performance to that against Sevilla only three days prior. Granted, in the penalty shootout, he did not make any saves but United got the upper hand and won 7-6 on penalties. With rumours of a new contract close to being completed, it seems De Gea will remain at United next season.
Tom Heaton is currently out injured with an ankle injury but reports suggest he could become fit again prior to this match, or maybe ahead of the Aston Villa clash on Sunday. United still have more pressing injuries to deal with though – especially in the defensive areas. I would like to see both Heaton and Jack Butland get some appearances towards the end of the season but United have a job to do – secure their place in the top four of the Premier League this season.
De Gea seems to be in a confident place ahead of the Spurs clash. Spurs, however, have a lot of live up to in order to take on United, who have already beaten them at Old Trafford this season in a 2-0 victory. In fact, over the last four fixtures after that 6-1 humiliation in 2020, United have continued to win and they will be seeking to do the same thing on Thursday evening at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. United seem to be the team to beat for Spurs this week.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw
United’s defence has some problems at the end of the season. The injuries to Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez is crucial to United achieving their targets. United are still flying high in the top four of the Premier League but they need to try and secure that as soon as they can. This way, United can rest key players in a bid to have them rested ahead of the Emirates FA Cup final when they take on Manchester City at Wembley at the start of June. It will be a tough match.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka should continue to keep his place in the right-back position against Spurs. He can do a lot, especially on the right flank with Antony playing ahead of him – the duo do work well together. United also have another good player in Diogo Dalot, who has played on the left-back role in the last few matches. But against Spurs, with Harry Maguire available again after suspension, Luke Shaw could be restored to his favoured left-back position.
In the centre of the defence, with few options, Victor Lindelof and Maguire will probably be paired together. However, United could take advantage of Shaw’s ability to play a left central role and keep him in that position with either Dalot of Tyrell Malacia playing in the left-back role. Perhaps that rotation will keep United ticking over until something changes. Willy Kambwala has been training with the first team recently, so he could be getting ready for his debut soon?
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
United’s midfield is one of the strongest positions in the squat at this moment in time. The first-choice duo will be Casemiro and Christian Eriksen but Ten Hag has many other options. The Brazilian and the Denmark internationals have been paired together for the majority of the season – despite injury to Eriksen and a number of suspensions for the Brazilian. United are so much better with Casemiro starting for the club but in the last two matches, he has been lacking something.
However, it could well be his last suspension which left him out for four matches, one just before the international break and three of them afterwards. I am sure he will be getting stuck in for the remainder of the season as he will want to find some success for United. His five goals and six assists have been crucial this season and for a player of his defensive ability and experience, he seems to have shown his class despite some pundits suggesting that he would be a flop at United.
Eriksen has two goals and nine assists so far this season, which is a great return from the free agent who arrived last summer. He has a wealth of experience and will help to provide United with goals and assists – not to mention more attacking play. Ten Hag has many options in these positions with Fred and Marcel Sabitzer also available. The Austrian will probably start ion Bruno Fernandes is not passed fit ahead of Thursday’s match, which could be good for United.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Rashford
The attacking midfield roles are where United have scored the majority of their goals this season. Antony has eight goals and one assist so far this season with Bruno Fernandes getting ten goals and 11 assists. Marcus Rashford is the player that has broken the mould though with 28 goals and eight assists. That is 54 goals and 20 assists – 74 goal contributions between these three players. That is great but it makes me wonder what United could have achieved with a top striker.
Antony should continue to start on the right-wing for United. He has an eye for a goal, a trick or two and can be very creative when United are on the attack. He was heavily criticised for being costly for United in the summer with many suggesting that he’s not talented but he’s done far more than Richarlison, who also had a high fee. Fernandes will hopefully start but he has been carrying an ankle injury following the penalty victory over Brighton in the FA Cup.
Fernandes is one of the talents at the club and he continues to strive for the best – whether he gets it or not. He’s definitely a much better captain for United on the pitch and gives more than Maguire in that role. Marcus Rashford is a must based on his form this season but after carrying an injury recently, he was unable to get United moving on Sunday but will need to start to achieve that if United are to reach their objectives this season – qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.
Anthony Martial is a player that seems to be using the rope he has been given to tether himself to an inability to find the back of the net regularly. We know that he can be a cracking player on his day but there are very few of those days during his time at United. This season, if it has not been injury, it has been ineffectiveness holding him back. He seems to be a player devoid of anything – even the fact his time could be up at United this summer. Rightfully so.
I would like to see him find his feet and start scoring more goals – hopefully end up scoring at least ten goals before the end of the season, which is achievable considering that he has scored seven goals already with a further three assists. That is not asking too much of the Frenchman. United have few options as the main striker this season. Martial will continue to be the first-choice striker unless he is not fit or he really frustrates the manager – which already seems to be showing signs.
Wout Weghorst can lead the line for United but his inability to find the back of the net is a problem for United too. That said, his energy, work rate and personality on they pitch really seems to be helping him. He can do things that United need but goals are the important thing that United require to reach their objectives this season. I can see him playing more football at United before the end of the season but can I see him scoring more goals? I hope so. He seems to love doing it.
Substitutes: Butland; Malacia, Dalot; Sabitzer, Fred; Sancho, Weghorst, Pellistri, Elanga
United can name nine players on the bench in the Premier League, using five of them throughout the clash with Spurs. Ten Hag will need to get his substitutions right in this big match as they cannot let Spurs get an advantage over them as it would prolong the season for the first-choice players, who could do with a rest ahead of the Emirates FA Cup final later this season. Jack Butland will probably be the goalkeeper on the bench against Spurs – still waiting for his chance to impress.
In defence, United could be left with just Tyrell Malacia and Diogo Dalot on the bench. Although, Ten Hag could keep Luke Shaw in the left central defensive role, playing either Dalot or Malacia as the left-back. That would leave Harry Maguire on the bench although Willy Kambwala has been training with the first team recently, so could be an option for the bench as Marc Jurado was in the last few weeks because of a fullback injury crisis, which did not last all that long to be fair,
In the midfield, Marcel Sabitzer and Fred could be the only central midfielders on the bench, which is a positive in all respects. The Austrian could start if Bruno Fernandes is not fit, which could see another youth player on the bench, of Fernandes himself if that happens. In attack, United are pretty short. Jadon Sancho, Wout Weghorst, Facundo Pellistri and Anthony Elanga could be the only players available on the bench, which could be good enough for United for the rest of the season.
Written by John Walker