Manchester United welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon in the Premier League. Erik ten Hag will need to get his team back to winning ways in the league as they look to start 2024 in good stead following their FA Cup victory over Wigan Athletic.
United have had a massive injury crisis to deal with over the first part of the season which has seen at least four defenders out of action at the same time and some experienced members of the midfield were also out at the same time which gave United some major problems.
The injury crisis is coming to an end for United now, so the players will need to get up to speed and start grinding out the results to try and end the season in much better stead than they started. Spurs started well initially but have dropped places in the league sitting in fifth with United in eighth.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;
Amad, Fernandes, Garnacho;
Andre Onana is set to play against Spurs prior to heading to the Ivory Coast to participate in the African Cup of Nations for Cameroon. United will need to form a solid defence against Spurs to aim for a victory, which means every aspect of the team must be strong – a big ask.
Onana has not beet great for United this season with a number of goals being conceded in all competitions with United out of the Champions League and the Carabao Cup – but in the fourth round of the FA Cup and eighth (at the time of writing) in the Premier League.
Altay Bayindir will miss out once again for United, but in the final match of January, against either Newport County or Eastleigh, he could make his long-awaited United debut with a view of continuing in goal until Onana comes back from the African Cup of Nations.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw
United’s injury crisis is coming to an end and it could well be that Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw are both back in action on Sunday, strengthening the back four in what will be a tough match against Spurs – United were beaten 2-0 by the North London club earlier in the season.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Shaw could play in the fullback roles against Spurs, which would be the ideal option for Ten Hag ahead of the match – although Diogo Dalot could play in either position if needed. United would love to have Shaw back ahead of this match.
In the centre of the defence, United could have both Raphael Varane and Martinez starting together once again – which was a great partnership last season until injury hit. United have had so many defensive changes this season, it is no wonder they have conceded many goals.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
United’s midfield is another area that has been hit with considerable injuries this season with the first choice pairing of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen both spending time on the injury list. Mason Mount – the new summer signing, has also been out of action for a considerable amount of time.
All three are either back or close to being back, which is a great boost for this squad. It could be that both Casemiro and Eriksen partner in the centre of the midfield against Spurs, which would be great to see with United needing stability, experience and guile in the midfield.
United have a number of options with the likes of Kobbie Mainoo and Scott McTominay also available, not to mention the talented youth players such as Omari Forson and Daniel Gore to fall back on – should they both be needed. It could be a strong second half of the season.
Attacking Midfield: Amad, Fernandes, Garnacho
The attacking midfield positions in the squad should be up for the task of commanding the final third of the pitch, creating goals and assists and getting the ball to the striker when he needs it. But so far, that has not quite happened in the way it could have on paper.
Amad Diallo missed the victory over Wigan in the FA Cup and should be back in the squad for this match. United should not be loaning him out this season as he is better than the failure of Antony this season. He should be starting every match he can and kicking on his progress at United.
Bruno Fernandes should also be starting against Spurs as United will require his experience, ability and more to the point – his leadership against the North London club. He should be seeking to have a massive impact. Alejandro Garnacho should start on the left-wing – what a player he is!
Rasmus Hojlund has made a good impact at United so far this season but more is expected of him. He has six goals in all competitions and will be seeking to score more in the coming matches. He missed the victory over Wigan win the FA Cup and will be raring to go against Spurs.
Hojlund is a talented striker and will fins his feet at United this season. It was always going to be tough for him with the weight of expectation on him and the fact that he has a rival in Martial, who seems so out of it and unable to lead the line for United. United need better rival teammates.
If Hojlund is unable to play, United will have to lead with Rashford, which is not ideal as he does not see too much of the ball to be dangerous as the only striker on the pitch – he is much better on the left-wing but Garnacho is much better in form at this stage of the season.
Substitutes: Bayindir; Dalot, Evans, Kambwala; McTominay, Gore; Rashford, Antony, Pellistri
United will be able to name nine substitutes on the bench against Spurs in the Premier League, using five of them throughout the match. Altay Bayindir will be on the bench as the substitute goalkeeper once again with his debut being closer than it ever has, unless Ten Hag has another plan.
In defence, United could have different options with Diogo Dalot, Jonny Evans and Willy Kambwala on the bench – which is a good thing and will get better in the coming weeks. In the midfield, a similar thing could happen too with Scott McTominay and Daniel Gore both available.
In the attacking ranks, United have few options at this time with most out of form. But Marcus Rashford, Antony and Facundo Pellistri, is his move away from the club happens prior to Sunday’s match. United need to get some players in these positions to have more depth in the squad.
Written by John Walker