Manchester United welcome Spanish side Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford in the final pre-season match of the summer. In a week’s time United will face Brighton and Hove Albion in the opening Premier League match of the season at the Theatre of Dreams. United played their penultimate pre-season match on Saturday, losing 1-0 to Atletico Madrid.
Erik ten Hag has stated that the players that started against Atletico will sit out of Sunday’s match which means David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Tyrell Malacia, Fred, Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Elanga and Anthony Martial will be unavailable.
The Dutchman also stated that players who came on as substitutes in that match could start or make an appearance in Sunday’s match. There will be other players in the squad, some who travelled to Thailand and Australia plus some younger players. Cristiano Ronaldo is also expected to be part of the squad and play at Old Trafford.
Whether this is a U-Turn by the Portuguese forward or a return to life at United will remain to be seen. This should be a good match at Old Trafford though, one for the fans to get them ready for a week’s time when the results start to mean everything whilst pre-season is all about fitness and getting things ready for the new season.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Laird, Bailly, Martinez, Shaw;
Amad, Eriksen, Garnacho;
Goalkeeper: Tom Heaton
Tom Heaton has played a few times already this summer and I would expect him to start in this match, at least until half time which is the Matej Kovar or Nathan Bishop come in. It is suggested that both could go out on loan this season but more recently, Kovar has been training more with the first team, suggesting that he might be the third-choice goalkeeper.
Heaton could get more minutes at the club this season with him possibly playing in the Carabao Cup, UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup, or a mixture of those matches. Heaton has the ability to guide United in the right direction, using his experience to help his peers also learning things himself.
Ten Hag will have more of a clue what he wants to be doing in the goalkeeper department this season. It was expected that a new goalkeeper would be signed this summer, which a few linked to the club, even a return for Sergio Romero – but nothing has materialised, which might happen later in the transfer window.
Defenders: Ethan Laird, Eric Bailly, Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw
This match is going to be a match that will see new singings, fringe players and youth being given a run out at the Theatre of Dreams. With Ten Hag stating that those who started on Saturday will not be playing, it will be a fresh XI. In the fullback roles, Ethan Laird and Luke Shaw could start, being swapped with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles at some point.
In the centre of the defence, a debut for Lisandro Martinez partnering with Eric Bailly could be a good mix with the Argentinian coming highly-rated and needing less time to get used to Ten Hag’s methods and playing style due to his time playing for Ajax. It is possible that Raphael Varane, if he has recovered from injury could also play.
There may also be some younger players added to the squad, depending on whether Ten Hag wants to get players match fit or make loads of changes in the match, which could be the case. Although I don’t see wholesale changes, at least in the defensive ranks against Rayo Vallecano. There will be stability here.
Midfielders: James Garner, Charlie Savage
In the centre of the midfield, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, James Garner and Charlie Savage could start against the Spanish side. Garner played in the dying embers of Saturday’s match so will be able to feature in this match. Savage was left in Manchester so should get a run out in this match, which would be good to see.
Later in the match, it is likely that Zidane Iqbal, Isak Hansen-Aaroen and Donny van de Beek could get some minutes, although van de Beek played on Saturday in the second half. It would make sense to see younger players given a chance as it would be good for their progression and allow them to see what it takes to become a first team regular.
It is also possible that the formation will change entirely for this match, which would also be good to see if Ten Hag has other plans ahead of the new Premier League season. A 4-3-3 formation would work well but it all depends on the opposition as not all formations will work 100% of the time.
Attacking Midfield: Amad Diallo, Christian Eriksen, Alejandro Garnacho
In the attacking midfield places, with Bruno Fernandes out of this match and Donny van de Beek not performing to the required standards in the central attacking position, Christian Eriksen should start in the favoured position based on what he did as soon as he came on against Atletico Madrid, showing his class and ability with the ball.
In the wide positions, Amad Diallo could start with Facundo Pellistri seemingly out of this match with a twisted ankle after he came off late in the match on Saturday. Alejandro Garnacho could start on the left, it being his first performance of the summer, which would be good for him. I am sure he will be rusty but up for the challenge.
In the second half, of wholesale changes will be made, Jadon Sancho, if he has recovered from the illness that kept him out on Saturday, could make an appearance. The likes of Shola Shortire, Hannibal Mejbri and Tahith Chong could be incorporated into the team at some point, which would be good for the players.
Forward: Charlie McNeill
Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to play in this match but based on the fact he has been training this week only, he might not start. In which case Charlie McNeill could be the one starting, which would be great for him. He has scored some good goals on his progression from the youth ranks and will be up for the challenge.
Of course, at some stage in the second half, Ronaldo cold come on to replace the young striker, getting his first minutes of pre-season. That said, it is entirely possible that Ronaldo starts and McNeill comes on in the latter stages of the match, which might work out much better for United.
It is still up in the air whether Ronaldo remains at United this summer based on the rumours surrounding the player this summer – not that there are many teams fighting for him and the fact that he wants to continue playing UEFA Champions League football. United need to be getting this sorted out, if it has not been already.
It could well be that Ten Hag will make a few changes in this match with many youth players available for an outing at Old Trafford. With Heaton, starting the likes of Matej Kovar and even Nathan Bishop could be called upon at some stage during the match. It is possible that Kovar or Bishop are given minutes from the start.
I defence, the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Alex Telles and Raphael Varane could all be given chances with some younger players possibly available in defence. The midfield could see the likes of Donny van de Beek, Hannibal Mejbri, Shola Shoretire, Zidane Iqbal and Isak Hansen-Aaroen, which would be good to see.
In attack, Cristiano Ronaldo will be the main player that supporters would like to see, even if it is his final match at the Theatre of Dreams with the rumours linking him to an exit. Jadon Sancho, if he has recovered from his illness and Tahith Chong could also be involved at some point. Facundo Pellistri seemed to twist his ankle on Saturday, so I doubt he will play a part here.
Written by John Walker