Preview: Manchester United up for Middlesbrough challenge – must show winning mentality

Ronaldo, Rashford, Sancho, Pogba and Fernandes to help United to a victory?

Manchester United -v- Middlesbrough

Emirates FA Cup

Old Trafford, Manchester

Friday 4 February 2022, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Anthony Taylor Assistants: Gary Beswick, Darren Cann

Fourth Official: Martin Atkinson

VAR: Stuart Attwell Assistant VAR: Neil Davies

Manchester United return to action in the Emirates FA Cup on Friday evening, welcoming Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough to Old Trafford in the fourth round of the competition. United beat Aston Villa 1-0 in the third round with Boro beating Mansfield Town 3-2.

United have not played for almost a fortnight, beating West Ham United 1-0 in their last match which was played on the 22 January whereas Boro last played on the 29 January, beating Coventry City 1-0 in the Championship. This will be a tough match for both teams.

United’s season has not been the best, seeing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s management career end at the club back in November 2021 and Michael Carrick stepping in for three matches before ultimately leaving the club as Ralf Rangnick was announced as the interim manager.

It was expected that United would have used the January transfer window to strengthen the squad, instead three first team players ended up leaving the club on loan with Anthony Martial heading to Sevilla, Donny van de Beek heading to Everton and Amad Diallo heading to Rangers.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WWDWLW

West Ham United 1-0 W, Brentford 3-1 W, Aston Villa 2-2 D, Aston Villa 1-0 W, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 L, Burnley 3-1 W

Goals: 14 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 7 – Bruno Fernandes, 6 – Mason Greenwood, 5 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Scott McTominay, Jadon Sancho, 1 – Anthony Elanga, Own Goal, Harry Maguire, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek

Assists: 11 – Bruno Fernandes, 7 – Paul Pogba, 4 – Fred, 3 – Cristiano Ronaldo, Luke Shaw, 2 – Mason Greenwood, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic 1 – Edison Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Alex Telles, Raphael Varane

Middlesbrough – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WLWWWW

Coventry City 1-0 W, Blackburn Rovers 1-0 L, Reading 2-1 W, Mansfield Town 3-2 W, Blackpool 2-1 W, Nottingham Forest 2-0 W

Goals: 7 – Andraz Sporar, 6 – Matt Crooks, 4 – Duncan Watmore, 3 – Josh Coburn, Uche Ikpeazu, Patrick McNair, 1 – Marc Bola, Caolan Boyd-Munce, Onel Hernández, Jonny Howson, Isaiah Jones, Martín Payero, Marcus Tavernier

Assists: 6 – Isaiah Jones, 2 – Matt Crooks, Patrick McNair, Andraz Sporar, Marcus Tavernier, 1 – Folarin Balogun, Sol Bamba, Marc Bola, Anfernee Dijksteel, Dael Fry, Joseph Gibson, Jonny Howson, Uche Ikpeazu, Martín Payero, Duncan Watmore, Nathan Wood

Previous meetings with Middlesbrough and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Middlesbrough have met 126 times in competitive competition. United have won 64 times, drawing 28 times and losing 34 times. A total of 14 matches have been played in the FA Cup with United winning seven, drawing four and losing three times.

United have scored 24 goals in these matches with Boro scoring 13. The last defeat in the FA Cup against Boro came on the 26 January 2002, with the last defeat against them on the 28 October 2015, losing 3-0 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the fourth round of the League Cup.

Clayton Blackmore, Ritchie De Laet, Fabio da Silva, Mark Wilson, Victor Valdes, Gary Pallister, Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Jonathan Greening, Gary Walsh, Peter Davenport and Viv Anderson have all played for both United and Middlesbrough.

Currently, Paddy McNair is the only former United player currently playing for Boro and this will be the first time he has faced his former club. McNair, 26 left United in the summer of 2016 with Donald Love for £5.5 million then signed for Boro two years later for a fee that could reach £5 million.

Team News: Lindelof, Bailly, Cavani and Lingard to sit out this match; Pogba, Wan-Bissaka, Shaw and Sancho could return; Boro have three players on the sidelines through injury.

Paul Pogba could return to the starting XI against Middlesbrough. However, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly will miss this match. Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Jadon Sancho could all return, which would be a good time for them and United to get things started once again.

On Thursday, Rangnick revealed that Jesse Lingard has asked for more time off, so will miss this match and Edinson Cavani will come back to the UK this weekend. It is what it is. Lingard has shown that his mentality is wrong whereas Cavani would have suffered from jet lag after international duty.

Sammy Ameobi, Darnell Fisher and Marc Bola could be out for Boro which means they will have a largely full squad to travel to the Theatre of Dreams. Former manager, Neil Warnock recently stated that the defence at his former club were much better than their counterparts at United.

It will be a tough match for both teams with United lacking much form this season and many other mitigating factors on and off the pitch and Boro will be seeking to take full advantage of that, aiming to scalp their opposition.

Predicted Starting XI: Ronaldo, Rashford, Sancho, Fernandes and Pogba to start against Middlesbrough with the view of reaching the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup.

It is imperative that Rangnick gets the formulation for his team right in this match as losing to Boro would be an embarrassment. That said, Rangnick has only lost once as the United interim manager, so he will do all he can to ensure United get the desired result – a victory.

With Cavani out of this match, because of jet lag following his return from South America after international duty and Lingard seeking more time off after a break in Dubai, it could well be that some youth players are added to the squad for this match? Which would be good to see.

Personally, I don’t think many changes will be made. David De Gea will remain as the goalkeeper as it would be silly to change that. In defence, Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw, if fit, should play in the fullback positions with Phil Jones and Raphaël Varane in the centre of defence.

In the midfield, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes should be entrusted to provide the determination, desire and importantly the creativity from the midfield. Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho should play in the wide attacking roles with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line.

Match Prediction: United should be winning this match but with the lack of depth in the squad, it could be a tough one. Boro will have to work hard to get what they want.

Middlesbrough last played at Old Trafford on the 31 December 2016, losing 2-1 in the Premier League. Grant Leadbitter opened the scoring in the 67th minute with Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba scoring in the 85th and 86th minutes of the match to get the victory.

In the reverse fixture that season, played on the 19 March 2017, United won 3-1 with Marouane Fellaini (30′) and Jesse Lingard (62′) putting United 2-0 up before Rudy Gestede (77′) got Boro back into the match. Antonio Valencia scored a 90th minute goal to win the match for United.

In the FA Cup, the last match between the two came on the 19 March 2007 at Old Trafford. It was a 1-0 victory for United after Cristiano Ronaldo scored a penalty in the 76th minute. This came after a 2-2 draw at the Riverside on the 10 March.

Wayne Rooney opened the scoring in the 23rd minute but Lee Cattermole equalised in the 45th minute then George Boateng took the lead for Boro in the 47th minute. Ronaldo scored a penalty in the 68th minute to level the tie and take it to a replay, which United won.

Manchester United 2-1 Middlesbrough

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.