Predicted XI: [4-3-3] Ronaldo, Sancho and Greenwood to start? Manchester United need to be more ruthless in attack!

Manchester United will face Brentford at the Brentford Community Stadium in the Premier League on Tuesday evening. The match may be postponed because of coronavirus cases at United on Sunday following the reports that some players tested positive when doing lateral flow tests. However, the club has not suggested anything just yet, so I am sure we will find out whether the match is postponed or goes ahead at some time on Monday. United beat Norwich City in the Premier League on Saturday evening, which was not the beat match United have played since Ralf Rangnick became the interim manager of the club.

United rose to fifth place after beating Norwich and sit a point clear of Arsenal and a point behind West Ham United. Rangnick’s side sit nine points behind third-placed Chelsea, ten points behind second-placed Liverpool and 11 points behind league leaders, Manchester City. It is going to be a tough time for United to break into the top four this month but it is something that is achievable based on the opposition they face between now and the end of the month. After Brentford, United will face Brighton and Hove Albion (H), Newcastle United (A) and Burnley (H). January will be an important month for United too with the Emirates FA Cup commencing.

Previous meetings with Brentford and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Brentford have not yet met in the history of the Premier League as this if the London clubs first time in the top flight of English football. In the history of the two clubs, United and Brentford have met a total of 13 times with United winning six times, drawing two times and losing five times. The last competitive fixture between the two sides was in the League Cup in 1975 with United winning the match 2-1 with goals from Sammy McIlroy and Lou Macari. The last time United lost to Brentford was in the FA Cup in 1938, a 2-0 defeat. The two sides met in pre-season in the summer, drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford.

Joshua Bohui is perhaps the only player to have played for both Brentford and United, although this was at youth level. The forward came through the ranks at Brentford signing from the Evolution Sports & Health Academy in 2011. In the summer of 2016, Bohui signed for United’s academy on a three-year contract. He progressed through the U18 and U23 sides for the club but at the end of his contract, he rejected (twice) the offer of a four-year contract at United. He has since played for NAC Breda, Colchester United, Waltham Abbey and Hayes & Yeading United. Max Haygarth is at Brentford B, leaving United’s academy in the summer.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Brentford in the Premier League at the Brentford Community Stadium on Tuesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea earned his place against Norwich City. His saves kept United in that match and he was well worth his selection to gain the clean sheet and the three points, which were needed after that turbulent time at the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign of the club. United are now undefeated in their last six matches in all competitions and that form needs to continue. United do need to become better on the pitch though. The match against Norwich was slow and cumbersome at times with United needing to become ruthless, like the days of old, which have seemingly gone by. This team is capable of beating the best teams in the league.

De Gea will, no doubt, be challenged by Dean Henderson and/or Tom Heaton this season. It is important that United keep De Gea fresh as at the end of last season, it was a problem with some players and United do not need their best goalkeeper to be fatigued. With the positive COVID-19 tests this weekend, and the fact we do not know which players are involved, there could be some major changes to the squad which faced Norwich. We don’t know how many players are out and United will be missing eight due to injury and illness, which could pose further problems. Perhaps youth could be called up on for this match, at least on the bench?

Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles

United’s defence has conceded four goals in their last six matches, keeping two clean sheets, which is a positive for this team, who were leaking the goals in the recent months. United have a good team but they need to kick on and turn a corner – a corner that Solskjaer was unable to turn. Hopefully that can cone with Rangnick and whoever replaces him in the summer. Given that Victor Lindelof had to come off the pitch with chest/breathing problems on Saturday, he might not be involved in this match, which is a shame as he has been a positive in the last few matches that he has played.

Instead, it could be Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire who partner in the central defensive positions with Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles playing in the fullback positions. The duo have done well when given the chance to show what they can do and with Aaron Wan-Bissaka injured, Dalot has the right-back position nailed on. However, with Luke Shaw back to fitness, he could push Telles for his place in the team. The positive COVID-19 tests could change this defence, as we don’t yet know who will be missing from this team ahead of this match, if it does go ahead. United should be able to deal with what has happened though.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred, Donny van de Beek

The 4-2-2-2 formation has not been working for United. The lack of width is a problem and it puts pressure on the midfield, which is not the best at this time, being that players are missing due to injury an illness. A 4-3-3 formation would be much better for United – it gives width and the players to help the attack, which is all that is needed to keep this team dominant. Of course, further additions will be needed for this formation to work, including a midfielder that can add some steel to the position – protecting the back for and creating from a deep-lying role. That was all that was needed in the summer, but it was not addressed for whatever reason.

Scott McTominay should start in the defensive area in this match – he did what was needed against Norwich but he may need to do more in order to gain the plaudits of those who seem to not want him at the club, let alone starting matches. Three permanent managers have seen the qualities of this player but people on Twitter hate him, so the manager needs to adapt to their position on the matter – yeah right! Fred should also start as he has been largely positive recently. With Bruno Fernandes struggling, a place on the bench should be his with Donny van de Beek playing in the advanced role, which could show Rangnick that he has cover in this position.

Forward: Mason Greenwood, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho

United’s attack has bags of potential this season. Granted, with Anthony Martial (who apparently wants to leave next month) and Edinson Cavani both on the sidelines, it leaves the attack limited in the resources available. Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 13th goal of the season against Norwich, which was a good penalty won fairly – not that the ABUs would agree with that. They hate to see the rules applied to United as they are so jealous of the club. Ronaldo at 36 is still a great player and the pundits cannot handle that either. It’s almost like he’s turning back the time, albeit playing as the lead striker, not the pacy winger.

Mason Greenwood needs to be playing more in this team. Marcus Rashford is well out of form and seems to be a hindrance for the club. Until he’s found a better period of form, he should be on the bench and working hard in training to find a way of getting back into the team as a starter. Jadon Sancho was subbed on Saturday when his play was more positive that Rashford’s. Having Greenwood and Sancho on the flanks with Ronaldo could be good for United. The pace and width that they offer is positive and will mean that Ronaldo could stay in the most dangerous areas to find goals. The attacking style of Dalot is also a positive that needs to be used more.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Phil Jones, Luke Shaw; Jesse Lingard, Bruno Fernandes, Charlie Savage; Marcus Rashford, Amad Diallo, Anthony Elanga

United cane name nine substitutes on the bench in the Premier League. Granted, until we know how many players are out after this positive COVID-19 test on Sunday, we don’t know what the club has left, in terms of players to field a team. At this time I would expect Dean Henderson to be on the bench with De Gea starting. That could all change though if either them are involved in the positive tests. In defence, not that United has many options there are this time, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw could both be available. That could all change though. There is a chance that the match is postponed because of the positives.

In the midfield, Jesse Lingard, Bruno Fernandes and Charlie Savage could all be available, as United’s U23’s are not in action until they face Chelsea at Leigh Sports Village on Friday evening. It is quite possible that more youth players are added to the first team to get through this period, instead of this match, or future matches being postponed for United to play at a later date, which might not be the best thing for the club. In attack, Marcus Rashford, Amad Diallo and Anthony Elanga could find themselves in with a chance of getting on the pitch and helping United get what they need against Brentford. This should be a win for United.

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.