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Michael Carrick Departs: Evaluating His Interim Spell

Manchester United managed to fight their way to a 3-2 victory against Arsenal mid-week, in what would be Michael Carrick’s final game as interim manager. While everybody knew Ralf Rangnick was waiting in the wings to take over, it came as a huge shock when Carrick announced he was leaving the club altogether after the victory. 

Carrick, who joined the club all the way back in 2006, has been a vital servant to the club over his 15-year spell, quietly instrumental in the core of United’s midfield for years. Playing as intelligently as he did, it only seemed natural that he would one day progress into coaching or management, an opportunity eventually afforded to him in 2018, which subsequently led him to the position of interim United manager. 

While Carrick has only had a brief stint in the hot seat at Old Trafford, the 40-year-old has been largely impressive over his three games of management, making several important decisions while steering United to two crucial wins and a good point against Chelsea.

The disastrous end to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s managerial reign had many expecting a full clear out of United’s existing coaching setup, so the fact that Carrick found himself as interim manager came as a shock, perhaps even to himself. 

Calls for Carrick and the rest of the coaching staff to resign out of respect and solidarity with Solskjaer were raised, something that the interim United manager even talked about himself, but Carrick’s decision to fill in when the club needed him has ultimately proved to be a good one. 

The narrative around United’s shambolic management and structure as a club from the top has been written and dissected many times before, and a cynic may argue Carrick’s stint of management is nothing more than the result of a lack of planning. However, lack of planning or not, United looked much better under Carrick and regained some confidence and belief along the way. 

Qualifying top of the Champions League group F is perhaps the highlight, but a spirited performance against Chelsea that was rewarded with a point is testament to Carrick’s ability to adapt quickly to a hugely difficult situation.

When United arrived in Spain for their Champions League clash against Villarreal, the atmosphere was sombre and miserable around the club. Solskjaer’s decline and ultimate sacking felt like a hammer blow to all who held him dearly and it was left to Carrick to rally the players for a massive game. 

Going into the match United faced a genuine threat of elimination if results went against them, so a good performance and resulting win was huge for club. It was difficult to know what to expect from Carrick, who for most of his career went under the radar while being quietly effective, a trend that seemed to continue into management. 

The decision to drop Bruno Fernandes was a big one, but the timing of his substitution into the game was a masterstroke as United took control in the second half. This confidence Carrick exuded in his own ability was only reinforced further by his calm and insightful interviews, managing to make himself look like a natural when negotiating difficult questions posed. 

Throughout most of the period of Carrick’s interim reign the sense of uncertainty remained, manifesting mostly in questions directed at Carrick, which was a credit to himself as it didn’t interfere with the football. Facing an even tougher second game in charge, Carrick took United to league leaders Chelsea amidst a backdrop of rumours around current Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino taking over.

Despite conceding a plethora of chances, and being second best throughout, United picked up a brilliant point thanks to a Jadon Sancho breakaway goal- his first in the Premier League and second of the week. 

Carrick had made another huge call in dropping Cristiano Ronaldo, but this only added further merit to his ability to make important and tough decisions, whether they be right or wrong. It was then a sense of relief for supporters of United when after the game the club finally announced a new manager in Ralf Rangnick, interim again, but someone who is hugely respected. 

Some of the intense media speculation and pressure was subsequently lifted, but United were heading quickly towards a clash against Arsenal. After concluding that there wasn’t enough time for Rangnick to get a work permit, Carrick was given one final game in charge. 

In what was objectively the most enthralling game of the three, United came from behind to overcome Arsenal in a game that was end to end at times. Where there had been a lack of belief and fight before in previous weeks there was now some urgency and desire, with the three points being what Carrick deserved for his impressive spell as interim manager. 

Moments after the games conclusion the club announced Carrick’s complete departure, which came as a shock to most considering his longevity as a servant to the club and impressive work over the week

Much like he was when a player though, Carrick opted not to tell anyone but the club of his decision to step away, claiming the focus should be on the game and not his future, once again illuminating the selflessness and class he possesses. 

The combination of a great result and this revelation left an emotional aura around the players and the supporters, fully aware of the dedication Carrick has shown towards the club throughout the years.

Overall, during his short week or so in charge, Carrick had not only qualified top of Champions League Group F and picked up four crucial Premier League Points, he’d also made good judgement calls and finally got Jadon Sancho scoring

This amount of good work in one week for someone who has never actually managed before is outstanding,further enhancing his reputation and stock as a potential future manager

Carrick cited the need to spend time with his family as the major reason for stepping away, despite Rangnick’s best efforts to convince him otherwise. Leaving behind a United side in much better shape than when he took over, Carrick goes down as a United legend for his commitment and class over the last 15 years, and a future in management sometime soon is almost a certainty.

Written by Sam Wilson

Ratings: Fernandes and a Ronaldo brace see Arsenal defeated with Carrick undefeated as he leaves the club

Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-2 at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Thursday evening. The Red Devils fell foul to a strange goal after David De Gea was down on the floor after being stood on by Fred and Emile Smith Rowe scoring a stunning goal from range. Bruno Fernandes, assisted by Fred, levelled the match in the 44th minute. Seven minutes into the second half, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 800th career goal to put United ahead before Martin Odegaard equalised. Ronaldo’s penalty saw United ahead again to take all three points from the match. Crystal Palace will travel to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.

United started off well but you could see that Arsenal were at Old Trafford to take some points away from the Red Devils, as they did last season. Carrick’s side seemed more confident than they had been in recent weeks, having had two good results against Villarreal and Chelsea. The game was there for the taking. However, United conceded a goal in the 13th minute of the match. Fred stamped on David De Gea’s foot, he was down on the ground and Emile Smith Rowe powered his shot towards goal and it went in. The referee looked to have his whistle near his mouth at the time, but he did not blow up for a foul or anything. The goal was given.

United tried to get back into the game. It was a long period before they got something to write home about. This United side had lots of talent and it was starting to look good for them. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave United something the club needed; a plan, direction and he reset the way of life at the club for the better. He will gain more praise when things have been achieved as without him it would never have happened like this. Carrick seemed interested in kicking on and this United side showed some determination against Arsenal. It was almost like this team have decided to start performing because they know what could happen for them now.

In the 44th minute of the match, Bruno Fernandes scored his fifth goal of the season with Fred laying in the assist. It was a great goal for the Portuguese midfielder. United were back in the game and would need to find a way of getting ahead and pushing on to win the match. It was a positive result at the break for United and that would guide them into the second half to try and get the win. That was exactly what United needed to do, helping to claw some points back from their poor period over the last few months, getting closer to the summit of the table than the mid level of the table.

Seven minutes into the second half, United took the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo, assisted by Marcus Rashford, scoring his eleventh goal of the season and the 800th goal in his career. It was a good goal for the Portuguese superstar and an even better one for the morale of the team, also building on the confidence of this season. However, just two minutes later, Arsenal had levelled through Martin Odegaard which was a shame. United now had something to work for again and would need to get there in order to take the points in this match. With Ralf Rangnick watching, the players would need to dig deep and push for this victory.

In the 70th minute of the match, Fred was taken out in the box and a penalty should have been awarded. However, the referee did not give anything and play continued. VAR assessed the penalty and gave the referee a chance to view the foul in the box. The penalty was given. Ronaldo took it, scoring his twelfth goal of the season and his 801st goal of his career. It put United back in the lead and gunning for the three points in this match. Arsenal would not take that lying down. It was convincing for United, who had definitely improved since Carrick took the help of the club, albeit temporarily. The future is going to be considerably better.

United found Arsenal trying to barrage them in the last twenty minute of the match and that was weathered well. Carrick made his first change of the match with Jesse Lingard replacing Rashford in the 79th minute of the match. Nine minutes later, after Ronaldo bust a gut to get into the box for a late attack, he was replaced by Anthony Martial. Two minutes after that, Donny van de Beek replaced Bruno Fernandes. It all seemed certain for United to get their first Premier League victory at home since their 4-1 victory over Newcastle United in the 11 September and their first league victory since the 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on the 30 October.

After the match, it was announced that Carrick was stepping down from his role as a coach, leaving the club this evening, which is a shame. He has done well over the last three matches and it will be remembered well by the supporters of the club. Perhaps he wants to cut his teeth in management elsewhere, which is fair enough. United will return to Premier League action, against at Old Trafford on Sunday when they welcome Crystal Palace to the Theatre of Dreams seeking to get one over the London club after their 3-1 victory in this fixture at the star of last season. Rangnick’s United will emerge and the start of a new era will commence.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Conceded a goal with him on the floor after being stood on by Fred. He protested it though but it stood. His save at 1-1 was important for United. Stood firm in his role as goalkeeper as United took the points from this match.

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20 Diogo Dalot

Sloppy at the start but he grew into the game. His positioning was key for United. He launched a shot on goal, which could have tested Arsenal. Seemed to be the attacking right-back that could thrive at United under Rangnick. Played a key pass for Ronaldo's goal. After this performance, he should play more.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Seemed uncomfortable at set-pieces, which was United's Achilles heel recently. He defended well and did what he needed to do. No clean sheet but three points in the bag - deservedly so.

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5 Harry Maguire

Steeped up for the big occasion. United needed this win over Arsenal. He helped provide the attack with balls and he defended resolutely. This Maguire needs to continue showing up to matches.

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27 Alex Telles

Performed well for much of the match. Seemed settled in his role and determined to keep his place in the team. However, he was dragged out of his position by Martinelli who set up Smith Rowe. Mistakes happen and it will be a learning curve. Other than that, he played his part in the match.

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17 Fred

Started poorly, especially standing in De Gea's foot and United conceding a goal. Seemed off at times. His passing was shoddy and he needed a lot of improvement. He set up Fernandes in the 44th minute and seemed to get better as theme grew on. Won a penalty in the 70th minute, which was the winner for United.

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39 Scott McTominay

Used his aggression to put himself about in the midfield. Booked for a foul in added time at the end of the first half. Did not seem to care about it either. He tired in the second half, but still offered United something.

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25 Jadon Sancho

One of the best players on the pitch in this match. It is great for Sancho right now. He was one of the players that sparked for United in their bid to recover from that first Arsenal goal.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Did not seem to be in his best form and was sloppy at times. That happens in football a lot. What matters was that he was where he was when Fred played him the ball to equalise in the 44th minute of the match. He was replaced by Van de Beek in the 90th minute.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Does not fit United's plan on the right, which is where Sancho needs to be playing. Showed good vision picking out Ronaldo for United's second goal of the game. Replaced by Lingard in the 79th minute.

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7 Cristiano Ronaldo

The first half was not the best for him, but matches are always two halves. He threatened more from the start of the second half, seeing an effort denied by Ramsdale before Ronaldo put United ahead, scoring his 800th career goal in the 52nd minute of the match. He scored a penalty in the 70th minute to seal the victory for United. MOTM for me. Replaced by Martial in the 88th minute.

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Substitutes

14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced Rashford 79'. Gave his energy but that was alone brought to the game. It seems clear that his time at United could be over, however, that could all change for him now if he works hard and changes his form massively.

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9 Anthony Martial

Replaced Ronaldo 88'. Brought some energy and seemed to be looking to improve himself, which will be needed under Rangnick.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Replaced Fernandes 90'. Came on in the last minute of the match. Not enough time to get involved. Maybe he will play more under Rangnick?

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Goals: Bruno Fernandes 44′, Cristiano Ronaldo 52′, 70′ penalty; Emile Smith Rowe 13′, Martin Odegaard 54′

Assists: Fred 44′, Marcus Rashford 52′; Mohamed Elneny 13′, Gabriel Martinelli 54′

Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; Fred, McTominay; Sancho, Fernandes (Van de Beek 90′), Rashford (Lingard 79′); Ronaldo (Martial 88′)

Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Bailly, Jones; Mata; Greenwood, Amad

Bookings: Scott McTominay 45+1′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Ronaldo, Sancho, Fernandes and Rashford start against Arsenal; Van de Beek on the bench

Manchester United welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford in the Premier League this evening, their seventh home match in the league this season. Of the previous six, United have won two, drawn once and lost three times. Winning matches at home again will be a must for United, who need to start turning their season around. A 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday saw United rise from the ashes after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and they will be on another new path under Ralf Rangnick this week, which will separate the men from the boys in this team. United finally need to lock on and show some improvement on their new road to success.

Arsenal are a team in good form at this time, winning five of their last six matches, losing the other. It is much better form than United are in with two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six matches. In this match last season, Paul Pogba gave away a penalty which saw Arsenal leave the Theatre of Dreams with three points before the 0-0 draw at the Emirates, which saw Arsenal gain four points and United just one in the two matches. Beating Arsenal will be important for United as they start a busy December to try and edge their way back into contention for the Premier League title, with the Champions League knockouts in the bag.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles;

Fred, McTominay;

Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford;

Ronaldo

Substitutes:

Henderson; Bailly, Jones; Mata, Lingard, Van de Beek; Martial, Greenwood, Amad

Arsenal:

Ramsdale;

Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tavares;

Martinelli, Partey, Odegaard, Elneny, Smith-Rowe;

Aubameyang

Substitutes:

Okonkwo; Tierney, Holding; Saka, Maitland-Niles, Lokonga; Lacazette, Pepe, Nketiah

United and Arsenal have met a total of 58 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 24 times, drawn 18 times with the Gunners winning the remaining 16 matches. United have scored 78 goals, winning six penalties and scoring four of them. Arsenal have scored 61 goals, winning four penalties and scoring two of them. United have kept a total of 17 clean sheets with Arsenal keeping 19. United players have been shown a total of 119 yellow cards and five red cards in this fixture with Arsenal players shown a total of 124 yellow cards and four red cards. United will be needing this to be a good game for them.

A total of 16 players have played for both United and Arsenal. Paddy Sloan, David Herd, Ian Ure, George Graham, Jimmy Rimmer, Brian Kidd, Frank Stapleton, Viv Anderson, Jim Leighton, David Platt, Andy Cole, Mikael Silvestre, Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Henrikh Mkhitarayan and Alexis Sanchez. The most successful of these is Van Persie who signed for United in the summer of 2012 and helped United to their last Premier League title victory in the final season of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign of the club. The Dutchman made 105 appearances for United, scoring 58 goals and 21 assists, winning the trophy that evaded him at Arsenal.

Written by John Walker

Player Focus: Fred’s Resurgence

Manchester United managed a respectable 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, which was a good result considering recent form

Interim manager Michael Carrick setup a vastly changed side, which included a surprising decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo. However, in a very defensive game for United, it was Fred who stood out with his pressing and interceptions. 

Over the last few weeks it seems Fred has undergone a resurgence, pressing high against Villarreal to win the ball back that led to a Ronaldo goal, while also doing well against Watford despite the loss.

Naturally the buzz around United is currently regarding confirmation of incoming interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who is notorious for his famous gegenpressing system. This combined with Fred’s recent improved performance has sparked conversation around the potential for Fred to become an integral player under the new United boss.

Rangnick, if confirmed as new interim manager, will undoubtedly bring a higher intensity pressing game to United– one which will favour players with energy and tenacity. This new approach and setup could be brilliant for the 28-year-old Brazilian Fred, who thrives when working to press the opposition and intercept loose balls. 

In the current United setup, it seems like Fred is given more licence as a traditional defensive midfielder, something which Fred is certainly not, mainly due to his lack of quality on the ball. However, in a system that relies less on dithering on the ball but rather quick interceptions and passes forward, Fred could be transformed. 

German coach Rangnick is a bit of a godfather in football, his revolutionary gegenpressing system a model used by a plethora of modern coaches; including Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp. This is a testament to the knowledge and experience of the incoming Manchester United manager, who may be able to get the best out of Fred. 

It’s not just Rangnick’s system that may benefit Fred though, it’s his attention to detail and meticulous individual coaching too, something that Fred hasn’t had a lot of in recent years at United. It’s clear that Fred isn’t going to produce an artful world-class display week in week out, but if coached correctly, he can stick to a game plan and carry it out very well. 

The debate around whether United have actually had any concrete tactics or game plan in recent years rages on, but rest assured Rangnick will bring all of that and more- which will be to the benefit of several United players. Additionally, Fred is unlike any other current United players in the sense that he’s an engine, covering every blade of grass in most performances. 

This attribute is rare (especially at United presently) and paired with a cohesive tactical plan it will reap the benefits for the team in the future.

Just like fellow United midfielder Paul Pogba, Fred seems to excel or play generally well when playing for his country, but this is not replicated at club level. This repeated pattern of players performing at national level but not for United is a syndrome of sorts for the club, but it has to be indicative of a fundamental issue somewhere at a tactical or management level. 

Once again United’s failure to get the best out of Fred, a player with marvellous potential, is more reflective of the mismanagement of the club in terms of planning and scouting for specific positions, while also not focusing enough on tactics in depth. 

Gone are the days where United can sign a multifunctional midfielder to fill the gaps it seems, as most of the top teams now employ specialists in each position to carry out a certain tactical plan.

It’s easy to forget that Fred was a player United had signed for £47 million from Shakhtar Donetsk, which many would argue hasn’t been repaid with performances. Now with over three years at the club, Fred has mostly failed to shine and is often labelled a liability in the United squad, but some of this could be down to him being utilised inefficiently. 

If Rangnick can manage to get the best out of Fred, then United could finally see a player worth his transfer value, a valuable asset to any midfield when at his best.

Written by Sam Wilson

Jadon Sancho: Time to push on?

Manchester United’s 2-0 victory against Villarreal in the Champions League on Tuesday night brought many positives, most notably qualification to the knockout stages of the competition. 

This game also proved a positive experience for some of the players who were low on form and confidence following the dreadful run of games United have been on that led to the sacking of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last weekend. 

One of the players who proved their worth during this game was summer signing Jadon Sancho. 

Sancho signed for United form Borussia Dortmund in the summer for a reported £73 million after United showed a long standing interest in the winger, as reported by Sky Sports. Sancho stated the move was ‘a dream come true’ and seemingly could not wait to get started in a red shirt. 

United fans were also positive about the move, knowing the club had wanted the youngster since at least the summer previous, it felt like a signing that was always meant to happen. It was also a singing that fans felt solved an issue within the squad, which was the weakness in the right-winger position previously held by either Mason Greenwood, who is more of a central striker, and Daniel James, who has since been sold to Leeds. 

United fans had every reason to be excited about the young winger as at the time of purchase, Sancho was considered one of the best young talents in the world. 

During his time at Dortmund the winger made 137 appearances in all competitions, scoring 50 goals and contributing 66 assists, for a player who was only 17 when he joined, as reported by the Bundesliga and 21 when he left, these numbers are extremely impressive. 

The fact the winger left Manchester City’s Academy at 17 to go abroad to get game time also shows Sancho’s resilience, an attribute that would serve him well at a cub as big as United. 

However, Sanchos time at United has not gotten off to the best start, before Tuesdays game Sancho had contributed no goals or assists during his 14 appearances in all competitions. This poor start led to journalists and pundits alike jumping on the youngster and questioning why he was not preforming, especially after arriving for a big fee.

Sky Sports reported that the situation had ‘echoes’ of the Donny Van De Beek situation at United, a player who was bought in the summer of 2020 and has barely been used since. Gary Neville stated that Sancho ‘is a victim of the current performances of the team’ stating that a new player would ideally come into a settled unit, and that did not appear to be the case for the youngster, possibly explaining his bad run of form. 

Now things seem to be on the up for Sancho who undoubtedly put in his best performance in a United shirt on Tuesday, scoring his first goal for the club. His all-round performance was also praised by interim manager Michael Carrick who stated after the game that ‘Jadon was brilliant’, as reported by BBC sport

As United look to move forward into a new era after the dismissal of Solskjaer, it is highly likely that Sancho will be a key player for whoever takes over at the club as there is no doubting, he is a huge talent and could go onto the be one of the best in his position if handled correctly. 

United fans do not need to worry as Tuesday proved that the player the club signed in the summer is still there and can make an impact, it is just a case of finding consistent performances moving forward, which he must do in order to keep his spot in the firs team. It is now time for Jadon Sancho to push on and prove his doubters wrong at Manchester United. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

Predicted XI: [4-3-3] Ronaldo, Rashford, Sancho and Fernandes the key to beating Arsenal? Rangnick will be watching and taking notes on this squad

Manchester United welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Thursday evening, their seventh home match in the league this season. Of the previous six, United have won two, drawn once and lost three times. Winning matches at home again will be a must for United, who need to start turning their season around. A 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday saw United rise from the ashes after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and they will be on another new path under Ralf Rangnick this week, which will separate the men from the boys in this team. United finally need to lock on and show some improvement on their new road to success.

Arsenal are a team in good form at this time, winning five of their last six matches, losing the other. It is much better form than United are in with two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six matches. In this match last season, Paul Pogba gave away a penalty which saw Arsenal leave the Theatre of Dreams with three points before the 0-0 draw at the Emirates, which saw Arsenal gain four points and United just one in the two matches. Beating Arsenal will be important for United as they start a busy December to try and edge their way back into contention for the Premier League title, with the Champions League knockouts in the bag.

Previous meetings with Arsenal and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Arsenal have met a total of 58 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 24 times, drawn 18 times with the Gunners winning the remaining 16 matches. United have scored 78 goals, winning six penalties and scoring four of them. Arsenal have scored 61 goals, winning four penalties and scoring two of them. United have kept a total of 17 clean sheets with Arsenal keeping 19. United players have been shown a total of 119 yellow cards and five red cards in this fixture with Arsenal players shown a total of 124 yellow cards and four red cards. United will be needing this to be a good game for them.

A total of 16 players have played for both United and Arsenal. Paddy Sloan, David Herd, Ian Ure, George Graham, Jimmy Rimmer, Brian Kidd, Frank Stapleton, Viv Anderson, Jim Leighton, David Platt, Andy Cole, Mikael Silvestre, Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Henrikh Mkhitarayan and Alexis Sanchez. The most successful of these is Van Persie who signed for United in the summer of 2012 and helped United to their last Premier League title victory in the final season of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign of the club. The Dutchman made 105 appearances for United, scoring 58 goals and 21 assists, winning the trophy that evaded him at Arsenal.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Arsenal in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Thursday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is crucial for United this season. The form he is in at the moment is why United have not been embarrassed as much as they could have been. The defence has been a joke and the captain of the club has let the club down time and time again – but that is for him to worry about with a new manager impending. De Gea has saved United’s blushes in the last two fixtures with United undefeated and conceding just one goal, compared to the four conceded in one game against Watford, which was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s final match as manager of the club. De Gea will be seeking to kick on this season but Dean Henderson could be a problem.

Henderson played well last season, playing a different goalkeeping role to De Gea and Rangnick will want to test both keepers as soon as he can to find out which one suits the formation and playing style that he will implement at the club. De Gea is experienced but Henderson is the keeper for the future who will be determined to show his good attributes to the new manager, seeking to take his place as the number one goalkeeper for the club. It is early days yet as we do not know what Rangnick will implement at the club, we can only go on his playing style from his management past. That said, it is a positive appointment for the club.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw

United’s defence seem to have improved in the last two matches but there is still along way to go before they can be considered an actual improvement. It seems clear that players have let the club down this season which saw the end of Solskjaer. Against Arsenal, it seems imperative that United should try and keep a clean sheet and the defence will need to be strong as they pose a massive threat. Aaron Wan-Bissaka should play in the right-back position but he will need to find some form as he has been terrible at times. With the January transfer window a month away, he could get some competition if Rangnick feels it is needed.

Luke Shaw should return to his left-back role, if he is fit enough to do so. Alex Telles will fill in if he is not. I feel that Shaw’s form needs improvement and he will need to be playing in the team to achieve that. It may not be perfect from the start but we know what he is capable of and he could find his feet again, as he did last season. In the centre of the defence, Victor Lindelof should keep his place, he was a positive influence against Chelsea, after that initial mistake. Harry Maguire is eligible to feature for United after his one-match suspension for his red card against Watford and he owes the United supporters a good performance – over to you, Harry.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes

United’s midfield needs an injection and Rangnick will be the best person to determine what is needed. With Paul Pogba out of contract in the summer the club will need to bring in a positive replacement – one that could fill-in with defensive work in the midfield and offer some creativity. That said, Carrick will need to pick from the players he has right now and with Pogba injured, he will need to select the right balance of players to offer something against Arsenal. I believe that Scott McTominay could offer something, possibly in the defensive area, which he has played in at times and always seems to provide energy and determination.

Donny van de Beek should also start, despite tailing off from his form against Watford in the victory over Villarreal. He came on late against Chelsea and should have perhaps played more minutes in the match, but he might have been saved for the Arsenal match with rotation key in December with a number of matches on the horizon. Bruno Fernandes will keep his place, playing in the advanced role, which he could balance with Van de Beek, who offers a threat in the advanced areas himself and will be seeking to earn his place under the new United manager, despite him being linked with a move away from the club in January.

Forward: Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford

United’s attacking line has a lot of potential and talent but it needs to be delved into with a precise way of playing to guarantee creativity, supply and more importantly, the goals needed to win matches. Jadon Sancho has scored two goals in his last two matches for the club, which has started his career at the club after a seemingly slow start, loss of form and some kind of inability to win matches for the club as a whole. A corner could have been turned in that respect. His confidence will be a lot higher now that it was a month or so ago, which is a good sign for the new era under Rangnick. He should start against Arsenal.

Marcus Rashford should also start and with Sancho, the duo could flank Cristiano Ronaldo, who should be the main striker in the team. If Edinson Cavani is close to fitness, perhaps a two-man strike force could be attained, but I don’t think it will be something that happens in this match as the Uruguayan will not be fit enough to get involved but for the remainder of the month, there is something to build on, even if it is just for the remainder of the season. Ronaldo has scored ten goals since returning to the club, Rashford has three so far this season with Sancho’s two. Mason Greenwood has four goals but his fitness will be lacking after his covid spell.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Eric Bailly, Alex Telles; Jesse Lingard, Fred, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani

Carrick will be able to name nine substitutes in the Premier League, using three of them. The substitutes will need to provide something that United were short of in the match, so there will need to be an array of talent on the bench. I would expect Dean Henderson to be the goalkeeper on the bench, ready to step in should he be given the opportunity to show his worth in this team, which will come at some point once Rangnick gets started as the interim manager of the club. In defence, I would expect to see both Eric Bailly and Alex Telles, who will be ready to get involved should the defence need some strengthening at any point in the match.

In the midfield, Jesse Lingard, Fred and Nemanja Matic could all offer something at some point in the match. The former needs to start living up to his expectations and show some worth as a starting player before he’s given the chance again, despite his contract expiring in the summer and him being likely to leave the club. Fred has shown some improvement, apart from that late lob on the goalkeeper against Chelsea. Matic still has something to offer. In attack, Anthony Martial, who needs to raise his game and find some form, Mason Greenwood, who just needs to reach optimum fitness and Edinson Cavani could all be available.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Carrick must pick a team capable of beating Arsenal with Rangnick commencing his role soon

Manchester United -v- Arsenal

Premier League

Ole Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 2 December 2021, KO 20:15 GMT

Referee: Martin Atkinson Assistants: Lee Betts, Richard West

Fourth Official: Craig Pawson

VAR: Andre Marriner Assistant VAR: Matthew Wilkes

Manchester United welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Thursday evening, their seventh home match in the league this season. Of the previous six, United have won two, drawn once and lost three times. Winning matches at home again will be a must for United, who need to start turning their season around. A 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday saw United rise from the ashes after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and they will be on another new path under Ralf Rangnick this week, which will separate the men from the boys in this team. United finally need to lock on and show some improvement on their new road to success.

Arsenal are a team in good form at this time, winning five of their last six matches, losing the other. It is much better form than United are in with two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six matches. In this match last season, Paul Pogba gave away a penalty which saw Arsenal leave the Theatre of Dreams with three points before the 0-0 draw at the Emirates, which saw Arsenal gain four points and United just one in the two matches. Beating Arsenal will be important for United as they start a busy December to try and edge their way back into contention for the Premier League title, with the Champions League knockouts in the bag.

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

Chelsea 1-1 D, Villarreal 2-0 W, Watford 4-1 L, Manchester City 2-0 L, Atalanta 2-2 D, Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 W

Goals: 10 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 3 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Jesse Lingard, Jadon Sancho, 1 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek

Assists: 9 – Bruno Fernandes, 7 – Paul Pogba, 2 – Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luke Shaw, 1 – Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard, Raphael Varane

Arsenal – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WLWWWW

Newcastle United 2-0 W, Liverpool 4-0 L, Watford 1-0 W, Leicester City 2-0 W, Leeds United 2-0 W, Aston Villa 3-1 W

Goals: 7 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 5 – Emile Smith Rowe, 3 – Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka, 2 – Eddie Nketiah, 1 – Calum Chambers, Gabriel Magalhães, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Ødegaard, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pépé

Assists: 3 – Nicolas Pépé, 2 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, 1 – Alexandre Lacazette, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Martin Ødegaard, Cédric Soares, Nuno Tavares, Takehiro Tomiyasu

Previous meetings with Arsenal and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Arsenal have met a total of 58 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 24 times, drawn 18 times with the Gunners winning the remaining 16 matches. United have scored 78 goals, winning six penalties and scoring four of them. Arsenal have scored 61 goals, winning four penalties and scoring two of them. United have kept a total of 17 clean sheets with Arsenal keeping 19. United players have been shown a total of 119 yellow cards and five red cards in this fixture with Arsenal players shown a total of 124 yellow cards and four red cards. United will be needing this to be a good game for them.

A total of 16 players have played for both United and Arsenal. Paddy Sloan, David Herd, Ian Ure, George Graham, Jimmy Rimmer, Brian Kidd, Frank Stapleton, Viv Anderson, Jim Leighton, David Platt, Andy Cole, Mikael Silvestre, Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Henrikh Mkhitarayan and Alexis Sanchez. The most successful of these is Van Persie who signed for United in the summer of 2012 and helped United to their last Premier League title victory in the final season of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign of the club. The Dutchman made 105 appearances for United, scoring 58 goals and 21 assists, winning the trophy that evaded him at Arsenal.

Team News: Paul Pogba and Raphaël Varane to miss Arsenal match? Harry Maguire eligible to feature and the club will be sweating on the fitness of Luke Shaw and Edinson Cavani ahead of the match.

Paul Pogba (Thigh) and Raphael Varane (Thigh) have been ruled out of the clash with Arsenal at Old Trafford on Thursday evening. The former could be out until the New Year with the latter expected to be fit around the time United face Crystal Palace on Sunday, so there could be a chance that he returns against Arsenal, although with what happened last time he was injured, I would not like to see him come back too soon. Harry Maguire was suspended against Chelsea and will be back in action against Arsenal. Luke Shaw also missed the match and is expected to be eligible to face Arsenal once again. Edinson Cavani could still be out with a Tendon injury.

Sead Kolasinac (Ankle/Foot) and Granit Xhaka (Knee) have both been ruled out of the trip to the Theatre of Dreams to face United through injury. Arsenal have made do without the duo so far this season so will continue without them for the foreseeable future. Bukayo Saka has a 25% chance to feature against United after coming off in the second half with some kind of injury. He scored the opening goal for Arsenal and will be a blow if he does miss Thursday’s fixture as he is considered as one of the clubs better players. That said, they have ample players to field if he does not make it but I reckon he will.

Predicted Starting XI: Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes to lead the attack against Arsenal? Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay in midfield?

Carrick has set United up positively in the past two matches following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, winning one match and drawing to the Premier League leaders, which was a positive result at Stamford Bridge. United have Ralf Rangnick announced as the new manager and it is expected that he will assume his role soon but Carrick will be the manager for a third match at least. It is imperative that United find their feet and kick on because the new era under Rangnick will be a tough one for many as there are passengers in this squad this season and that should not be the case. Each player should be hungry to achieve something at this club.

I expect David De Gea to keep his place in goal, especially after his performance against Chelsea on Sunday. The back four should consist of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who will be seeking improvement to impress the new manager, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, who returns from suspension and Luke Shaw, who should be fit following his head injury against Watford. If not, Alex Telles will take his place again. In midfield, in a 4-3-3 formation, which will change during the match, Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes should all start with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho flanking Cristiano Ronaldo.

Match Prediction: Beating Arsenal will be a big confidence boost for United but a management change will not change much overnight. It will take some time for things to be perfected and change for the good.

Last season, United failed to beat Arsenal, losing 1-0 at Old Trafford and drawing 0-0 at the Emirates. This season, things will need to improve as Arsenal are currently above United in the Premier League table, sitting in fifth place, which will change ahead of kick off on Thursday evening as this fixture is the last of ten to be played with two matches on Tuesday, six on Wednesday and the final two matches on Thursday evening. United 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Sunday saw United amass 18 points in the league this season, five adrift of Arsenal (23) which shows the improvement that United will need to make to get back up there with the teams at the top.

United can play positive football. Against both Villarreal and Chelsea, there were periods of poor football but United stopped conceding poor goals, which had come in the matches prior to those. With a better quality of coaching and some better tactics, United will play a better brand of football overall but it will not happen overnight. It is likely that it will take a period of weeks for the players to learn new tactics and perfect them – not all players will be like this – some will pick it up pretty quickly. United will eventually turn that corner and be much better for it. The only way is up from here and that is the only direction United need to travel.

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal

Written by John Walker

Ratings: Sancho scored second goal in a week to earn Chelsea draw; De Gea’s saves kept United in the match

Manchester United drew 1-1 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. David De Gea’s heroics saved United in the opening stages of the match after a defensive error but the away side then grew into the match. Jadon Sancho’s interception of Jorginho saw the opening goal come in the 50th minute of the match, his second goal for the club, both scored this week. A penalty decision gave Chelsea a lifeline with Jorginho scoring from the spot, correcting his earlier error. United tried their luck, as did Chelsea to find a winner in this match but it was not meant to be. Arsenal travel to Old Trafford on Thursday evening.

his was not the best start for United. Almost right away, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelöf combined terribly which resulted in David De Gea having to make a fine save to deny Chelsea. Under their new manager, this team is going to be challenged to improve, something which some of them will not be able to achieve. De Gea made a fair few saves in the first half, which was not great for either side to be blatantly honest. United had something to build on with the fact they had not conceded to this Chelsea side. Carrick will have been pleased with what he had seen so far and United seem to have started turning another corner.

Chelsea ended the first half with the lion’s share of possession (67.7%) having 10 shots in total with four of those on target. United were yet to have a shot on target, having just one shot on goal in the opening 45 minutes of the match. Carrick will need to tweak a few things in the second half to change that, as it would seem this match is up for the taking with Chelsea not in a position to punish United, not at this stage at least. Bringing on the likes of Donny van de Beek, Mason Greenwood and Cristiano Ronaldo could see United prevail, which is what United need to be doing in this match to properly turn a corner.

There were no changes at the start of the second half for either team. Marcus Rashford was booked in the 49th minute, the second player to be booked with Scott McTominay booked in the last minute of the first half. In the 50th minute, United took the lead with Jadon Sancho intercepting the ball from Jorginho in the midfield and busting a gut with Marcus Rashford to get forward with only the goalkeeper to beat. Rashford wanted to receive the ball to score but Sancho beat the keeper, scoring his second goal for United days after scoring his first. United deserved this lead and needed to ensure they kept it.

In the 64th minute of the match, Carrick made his first substitution with Cristiano Ronaldo replacing the goalscorer, Sancho, who had not been moving well in the last few minuted before the change. Chelsea now needed to be wary of a defeat as Ronaldo’s movement and skill on and off the ball could cost them another goal, which is something United needed to get as they have lost winning positions in this manner before. Chelsea had been trying to get back into the match, but their chances were rather tame by their own standards, which was even better to see as a United supporter. It was not a long-lived lead though.

United conceded a penalty in the 67th minute of the match after Thiago Silva went down in the box after being kicked in the ankle. Jorginho made up for his earlier mistake to put Chelsea level from the spot with De Gea diving in the wrong direction. It was a big goal for Chelsea and a pretty soft penalty to be given, but we live in a time where footballers enjoy acting more than actually being hurt. Chelsea because resurgent to find a goal to put them ahead after the penalty, but United did all they could to avert another goal being conceded in quick succession. Carrick will have been thinking about further chances to make for United.

Jesse Lingard replaced Rashford in the 77th minute of the match, the second substitution for United. At the same time, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount replaced Callum Hudson-Odoi and Marcos Alonso. Chelsea had hard luck on goal pressing United, then saw De Gea make another save to deny them. In the 82nd minute, Romelu Lukaku replaced Timo Werner with Chelsea looking for a winner. Donny van de Beek replaced Bruno Fernandes in the 89th minute of the match with the game still at a deadlock. Scott McTominay seemed injured in the last minute of the match but after some treatment he was fine. He was named Man of the Match by Sky.

It was a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, which is a positive result for United, who have been mocked by the media ahead of this match. United have not yet fully turned the corner but these steps over the past week are positive ones. Next up will be Arsenal at the Theatre of Dreams on Thursday evening, a match which is broadcast live by Amazon Prime in the United Kingdom. It is possible that this was Carrick’s final match in charge of United with Ralf Rangnick on his way to becoming United fifth manager, seventh if you include Ryan Giggs and Carrick following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. A point is a point, it’s not a win but it will do.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Made more than his fair share of saves against Chelsea. Could not save the penalty that was awarded, but continued with more saves to keep United in the match.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Made an early error which could have seen Chelsea through, along with Lindelof but De Gea made the save. Needs some more improvement and a raise in form to finally kick on, but that will take time under new management.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Combined with Wan-Bissaka in an early error which almost cost United, if it was not for a De Gea save. Was pretty solid in his defending from there though. Will be better with either Varane or Maguire alongside him.

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3 Eric Bailly

Good to see this Bailly back, not the one prone to errors. It was a big distance between the Bailly who played against City and the one that showed up today. His confidence should have been boosted from this performance.

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27 Alex Telles

A disciplined performance from the Brazilian. It was his first start in the Premier League since May. Shaw could be back in his position later this week though, if all is well with him.

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17 Fred

The Brazilian has improved significantly in the last two matches. Seems to have found his feet. I have a feeling that he will be a big game player under a new manager. He was tepid at the start and grew into the game. His chance at the end of the match was poor though, he could have played to ball to a teammate or ensure he chipped the goalkeeper. Hindsight is fantastic though.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Read the game well and was disciplined back at the stadium he use to play home matches at. Good to see him play positively when United were seemingly at rock bottom in terms of confidence.

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39 Scott McTominay

Made little impact at either end of the pitch and was the first player to be booked in the match. Sky named him the MOTM for this performance, which was largely positive with him battling away in the midfield.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Played a role in Sancho's goal, but Jorginho's mistake helped to create the goal. Perhaps should have been on the bench from the start as in terms of impact, he had very little. Replaced by Van de Beek in the 89th minute.

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25 Jadon Sancho

Scored his second goal for the club, both in the same week, to put United ahead in the 50th minute of the match. Showed quick thinking in intercepting the ball from Jorginho, running towards the goalkeeper with Rashford with him, not passing the ball and going for goal, scoring it. He was not moving well minutes later and was replaced by Ronaldo in the 64th minute.

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10 Marcus Rashford

It was a quiet game for Rashford. He helped Sancho with a chance in the first half, but other than running with him when he scored, his involvement was minimal. He was replaced by Lingard in the 77th minute.

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Substitutes

7 Cristiano Ronaldo

Replaced Sancho 64'. Did not see much of the ball, but in what he had, he tried. Should have perhaps started, but this gamble seemingly paid off.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced Rashford 77'. Brought energy onto the pitch but that was it for him. Needs to offer more if he is to win his place in this team, especially under a new manager.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Replaced Fernandes 89'. Came on late and did all he could, but he was not on long enough to create much.

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Goals: Jorginho 69′ penalty; Jadon Sancho 50′

Assists: N/A

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Bailly, Telles; Fred, Matic, McTominay; Fernandes (Van de Beek 89′); Sancho (Ronaldo 64′), Rashford (Lingard 77′)

Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Jones, Dalot; Mata, Van de Beek; Martial, Greenwood

Bookings: Reece James 53′, Jorginho 90+5′; Scott McTominay 45′, Marcus Rashford 49′, Bruno Fernandes 77′, Cristiano Ronaldo 90+2′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Sancho and Rashford lead the line against Chelsea; Ronaldo and Van de Beek on the bench

Manchester United return to Premier League action this afternoon as they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. United have not won in the league since they beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 at the end of October, previously winning in the league in mid-September when they beat West Ham United 2-1. United’s poor form saw the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was sacked after the 4-1 defeat to Watford last weekend with Michael Carrick taking the reigns temporarily. Carrick led United to a 2-0 victory over Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening, seeing his side top the group and earning a place in the knockout stages this season.

Ralf Rangnick is expected to sign a six month deal to be United’s interim manager for the remainder of the season, then take up a two-year consultancy spell at the club.Because of the need for a work permit in the United Kingdom, which will not be in action before Sunday’s match, it is expected that Rangnick will take charge of his first United fixture on Thursday with United taking on Arsenal at Old Trafford in a match that will be live on Amazon Prime in the UK. United are expected to endure a few days training with the interim manager, which should hopefully see United adopt a better playing style post-Solskjaer.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Bailly, Telles;

Fred, Matic, McTominay;

Fernandes;

Sancho, Rashford

Substitutes:

Henderson; Jones, Dalot; Mata, Lingard, Van de Beek; Ronaldo, Martial, Greenwood

Chelsea:

Mendy;

Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger;

James, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Alonso;

Ziyech, Werner, Hudson-Odoi

Substitutes:

Arrizabalaga; Christensen, Azpilicueta; Barkley, Politic, Niguez, Mount, Havertz; Lukaku

United and Chelsea have met a total of 58 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 17 times, drawn 23 times with Chelsea winning the remaining 18 matches. United have scored 72 goals, winning five penalties and scoring four of them. Chelsea have scored 71 goals, winning two penalties and scoring both of them. United have kept a total of 16 clean sheets with Chelsea keeping 19. United players have been shown a total of 128 yellow cards and four red cards in this fixture with Chelsea players shown a total of 137 yellow cards and six red cards. This is going to be a fiery encounter at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

There is a rather vast history between United and Chelsea with many players donning the shirts of both clubs. Currently, both Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata have played for both and are in with a chance of featuring against their former club this weekend. Romelu Lukaku could feature against United for the first time since he left the Theatre of Dreams – he re-signed for Chelsea in the summer. Radamel Falcao, Juan Sebastian Veron, Mark Bosnich, Mark Hughes, Paul Parker, George Graham, Mal Donaghy and the late Ray Wilkins, a player both sets of supporters will hold immense respect for, have also featured for both clubs in the past.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-3-3] Ronaldo, Rashford and Sancho to lead the attack against Chelsea? Fernandes, Van de Beek and McTominay in midfield?

Manchester United return to Premier League action on Sunday as they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. United have not won in the league since they beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 at the end of October, previously winning in the league in mid-September when they beat West Ham United 2-1. United’s poor form saw the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was sacked after the 4-1 defeat to Watford last weekend with Michael Carrick taking the reigns temporarily. Carrick led United to a 2-0 victory over Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening, seeing his side top the group and earning a place in the knockout stages this season.

Ralf Rangnick is expected to sign a six month deal to be United’s interim manager for the remainder of the season, then take up a two-year consultancy spell at the club.Because of the need for a work permit in the United Kingdom, which will not be in action before Sunday’s match, it is expected that Rangnick will take charge of his first United fixture on Thursday with United taking on Arsenal at Old Trafford in a match that will be live on Amazon Prime in the UK. United are expected to endure a few days training with the interim manager, which should hopefully see United adopt a better playing style post-Solskjaer.

Previous meetings with Chelsea and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Chelsea have met a total of 58 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 17 times, drawn 23 times with Chelsea winning the remaining 18 matches. United have scored 72 goals, winning five penalties and scoring four of them. Chelsea have scored 71 goals, winning two penalties and scoring both of them. United have kept a total of 16 clean sheets with Chelsea keeping 19. United players have been shown a total of 128 yellow cards and four red cards in this fixture with Chelsea players shown a total of 137 yellow cards and six red cards. This is going to be a fiery encounter at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

There is a rather vast history between United and Chelsea with many players donning the shirts of both clubs. Currently, both Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata have played for both and are in with a chance of featuring against their former club this weekend. Romelu Lukaku could feature against United for the first time since he left the Theatre of Dreams – he re-signed for Chelsea in the summer. Radamel Falcao, Juan Sebastian Veron, Mark Bosnich, Mark Hughes, Paul Parker, George Graham, Mal Donaghy and the late Ray Wilkins, a player both sets of supporters will hold immense respect for, have also featured for both clubs in the past.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Chelsea in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea should start against Chelsea. There is no denying that he has improved this season. He has saved penalties, which was a problem for him last season and his confidence has risen. That is what United need in their goalkeeper. He kept his third clean sheet of the season against Villarreal, which should be the starting point for United getting their season back on track. Chelsea sit top of the league at the time of writing and United sit in eighth place, 12 points adrift of the league leaders. Nine points separate United and Manchester City in second place with eight points between them and Liverpool in third.

For almost two months now, United have struggled to grind out results in the Premier League, falling short more often than not, which ended the management career of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Since beating West Ham United on the 19 September, in which De Gea saved a last-minute penalty, the club has picked up just four points out of a possible 21, which could have seen them as the Premier League leaders if they had collected them. Hindsight is fantastic but just sometimes, it is something that needs to be viewed. For years now, poor form has cost United succeeding post-Ferguson. Winning the Premier League title is important for this club.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Alex Telles

United’s defence will be much weaker for this match against Chelsea. Harry Maguire is suspended for this match after being sent off against Watford last week and Raphael Varane is still injured. This means that Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones (if he can be risked) will be the players vying for the central defensive positions. Luke Shaw is also coming from that second head injury, so might still be a risk, which means Alex Telles could start again, which is why he has been chosen here. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will keep his right-back position but will need to start pulling performances out of the bag – recently he has not been all that good.

I think Lindelof will keep his place and will be boosted in confidence after that 2-0 victory over Villarreal on Tuesday evening, also keeping a clean sheet, which is something of a rarity for United this season. Eric Bailly could be drafted in to partner the Swede against Chelsea which is a 50/50 for most as Bailly can put in great performances but can also put in very poor performances. That said, he can be rash at times and having a mad heat on the pitch might not be the best against Chelsea. United need to kick on here and getting three points in the bag will be a big boost ahead of a December which will be packed with matches.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes

United’s midfield needs some reinforcement during the January transfer window but for now, the players that are already at the club will have to do. Paul Pogba is out injured, which could see him out of action until next year, although that has not yet been confirmed. Against Chelsea, United will need to play well in this area and with Fred currently being a doubt, I would imagine that Scott McTominay will start, unless Fred is fit to start, which would allow both Donny van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes to start in a 4-3-3 formation, which could be changed at points in the match with United on the attack compared to them defending.

Van de Beek played well against Watford, scoring his first goal of the season, which will hopefully be his first of many. United could really get somewhere with the midfield sorted, which would allow them to push and dominate their opposition, which is a problem they have been having this season. Fernandes is a player that has helped United out time and time again with some sections of the support suggesting that he’s not needed at the club, calling him a stat-padder, which seems a strange thing to say based on what he has given United since he signed almost two years ago now. This midfield is good but could be so much better.

Forward: Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford

United have a great selection of attacking players in the squad this season but they have not been used to their strengths so far, which is a shame. Jadon Sancho scored his first goal for the club on Tuesday evening as the club beat Villarreal 2-0 in the penultimate Champions League group stage match, winning their group and earning a place in the knockout stages later in the season. The winger is a great talent to have but his start at the club was not the best, because of injury, lack of form and the poor predicament United were in. It will get better for him and United. He should start on the right-wing, pulling back into right midfield when needed.

Marcus Rashford should start on the left-wing, a position he has excelled in in recent seasons and with a bit of form and confidence, he could go back to being the player he has been in recent seasons. Cristiano Ronaldo scored his tenth goal of the season against Villarreal which was also his 799th career goal. He is going to be seeing to get that 800th goal against Chelsea on Sunday, which would be a great day for him and United, especially if United can take all three points in the match. These three players have so much talent, and eye for goals and great determination, which could be good for United if they all end up working well together.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Amad Diallo

The bench will be depleted for this matches based on the injuries and suspensions but Carrick will have to ensure he has what could be needed on the bench to get a result against Chelsea. That said, any player given a chance, whether from the bench or starting the match will need to put in their best performance as their new manager will be watching and I am sure that he will be taking notes and speak to those not pulling their weight, which will give him a few conversations. Dean Henderson will be the goalkeeper on the bench for this match as I can’t see De Gea being benched as he is in good form ahead of this match, boosted by another clean sheet.

Defensively, United have a problem with no experienced central defenders, unless they are going to risk Phil Jones, which will be a doubt as he could get injured again. That means they will have just Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw, if he is fit enough to play a part this weekend following his head injury. In midfield, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred, if fit and Nemanja Matic could all be called upon if needed. Both McTominay and Matic have played in a back four before, not that it is ideal, so there are options if the worst should happen. In attack, Anthony Martial and Amad Diallo could be called upon to strengthen the attack, should they be needed.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW