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Manchester United could have some players back from injury against Liverpool but will it make a difference?

Manchester United will be back in action in the Premier League on Sunday as they welcome league leaders Liverpool to the Theatre of Dreams in the clubs first local derby of the season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team owe the supporters a performance worthy of the support they have been given but that could be problematic with injuries.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood have all suffered injuries with some expected to be back soon. Diogo Dalot was injured in his last match, whilst both Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah remain on the sidelines recovering from knee surgery before the end of the year.

It has been suggested in the media that Paul Pogba could be back for the Liverpool match, however, reports have also suggested that he will miss the clash. I guess if you cover both bases, you have a good chance at being right, which is something the media do at times, all in plain sight so many don’t question it, instead use it as propaganda against the manager.

Victor Lindelof is reportedly getting ready to play for Sweden against Spain on Tuesday, which could suggest he will be back in the squad to face Liverpool. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been absent for the last three matches suffering from tonsillitis, with hope that he will be able to play after sitting out for the international break also.

Luke Shaw has missed eight matches along with Anthony Martial, both of whom suffered thigh injuries in the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace back in August. Shaw has been training since before the 0-0 draw against AZ Alkmaar, so could be ready to fortify the left-back position but Martial could still be a doubt as he might not have trained yet.

Phil Jones could also be back, although he has played just 135 minutes of football this season, is unlikely to start many big matches. Axel Tuanzebe has risen well ahead of him in the defensive ranks this season, which is a good thing, in my opinion. Solskjaer also suggested that Jesse Lingard, who missed Newcastle United defeat, may be back for this match.

Mason Greenwood, who has played a lot of football with both Martial and Marcus Rashford having time on the sidelines so far this season, suffered a lower back injury against Newcastle, which stopped him from playing for England U21s during the international break. He will be assessed ahead of the Liverpool match, which is not great news.

Diogo Dalot is also back on the sidelines through injury, suffering more of the same, to do with his hip, which kept him out earlier this season, which also suggests the problem was not solved and may have been prolonged. Not that he’s a big miss, as he is unlikely to start at right-back much this season based on his lack of experience.

Both Bailly and Fosu-Mensah are expected to be out until at least late December, in Bailly’s case, not return date for the Dutch defender, which might mean he will be out until 2020. United, however, are not crying out for defensive reinforcement yet, which is a positive at this time, not that many will see it that way. Some players seem to be made of glass now.

Hypothetically, if it were expected that Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Shaw and Pogba, Lingard and Martial were all back in the team against Liverpool, would it make much of a difference? That is a question that many will answer right away negatively, as the fan base, at least on social media is toxic and heading much deeper than that.

Some will wonder if these ‘people’ are actually supporters of the club or whether they are supporters of the decline, moaning about anything and everything. United have not had much luck this season. Injuries have been costly to this already threadbare squad and talent, determination and desire were already scarce before injury took its toll.

United should be fired up for matches such as this one against Liverpool. They were up for the clash against Chelsea at the start of the season, the best performance of the season incidentally. United has a history of playing in these big matches and all of the players who are fit to play should have the desire, determination, and hunger to achieve.

Manchester United trio ruled out of Leicester clash. Youth need to be given a chance but will they?

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, and Anthony Martial will miss the Premier League match against Leicester City at Old Trafford on Saturday. It was also confirmed that Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Jesse Lingard have a chance to feature for United this weekend.

Solskjaer has eight players on the sidelines currently with Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah, who are both recovering from knee injuries and Diogo Dalot, who has a hip injury. In order to find a squad capable of beating Leicester this weekend, the manager will need to draft in some of the fringe players in order to aim to get a result.

However, with the liked of Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, and Juan Mata, despite the fact they have the experience, it hardly suggests that they are going to bring in the ‘must win at all costs’ mentality. However, if talented youth players were given a chance, they will give their all in a bid to show that they are ready for the first-team.

United will no doubt miss Martial but whether they miss Pogba is another story as he has not really pulled it out of the bag this season so there is really nothing to miss. Perhaps sitting out of matches is necessary for him to find his love of the club and the game, wanting to give his all for this club, if not, is he really going to be a suitable player on the pitch?

In order for Solskjaer to continue his rebuilding of the club, he needs to look at other options at his disposal, rather than relying on players that have failed to ‘inspire and achieve’ for much of the last six years. We already know that the usual suspects will let the side down, which is not rebuilding, it is trying the same thing over and over again.

I would like to see Ethan Laird, if fit, Brandon Williams, Angel Gomes, James Garner, Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, and maybe even Largie Ramazani given a chance this season. Some of them would be ideal at this moment in time considering the injuries in the squad. All seven of these players will fit into the areas weakened by injury.

Laird could play at right-back, Williams at left-back, Garner could fill in for Pogba, Gomes for Lingard, Greenwood for Martial with the others on the bench ready for an opportunity should they be needed. This would be a more positive approach than utilising Rojo, who wants to leave the club and Matic, who is too slow to play in this squad.

With the injury news, it is clear that Marcus Rashford will lead the line again, with Daniel James playing on the left. Greenwood could play on the right. If Solskjaer utilises the 4-3-3 formation, Gomes could be playing as the more advanced midfielder with Garner and Scott McTominay dealing with distribution and defensive midfield aspects of the game.

Not only would this send a message to those who have continued to allow the decline of this club, it would give the supporters hope that Solskjaer is the manager that will inspire youth as United really do have some great players coming through the ranks. Risks need to be taken in order to see if it could work. At least something was tested for the future.

Manchester United in the process of opening talks for Paul Pogba’s new contract – reports

Manchester United are reportedly in the process of opening talks with French midfielder Paul Pogba over the possibility of securing the player to a new contract at the Old Trafford club. In the summer, the French World Cup winner was linked to Real Madrid and Juventus after suggesting that he ‘wanted a new challenge‘.

The 26-year-old was heavily linked to Real Madrid this summer with reports of a £150 million fee, or more, needed to secure his departure. However, the Spanish club never made a move for the player, despite the speculation so you could wonder if the club wanted him or not. In the past, Madrid had always got their man playing their own games.

French newspaper, L’Equipe has reported that United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward has contacted Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola to discuss a new deal. Whether that is something that develops in the player signing a new contract at the club remains to be seen. After what has been said this summer, it may seem unlikely but money talks.

Pogba’s current contract ends at the end of the 2020/21 season, although United and the player have the option of an extra year. It may be that United will get Pogba to sign a new contract, something similar to that of Cristiano Ronaldo around 11 years ago, aiming to get him to stay at the club for one more year before his inevitable departure.

Pogba’s relatives have continued to speak about the players apparent unhappiness at the Old Trafford club, something which could reflect his inability to perform in matches, which in actual fact should result in him being benched or dropped completely, which would happen for other players. However, with Pogba being a big asset, that might not happen.

The Frenchman seems to want to play under Zinedine Zidane, the current Real Madrid manager. However, based on the performances of the club this season, there is no guarantee that he will be the manager by the end of the season, taking into account that the club has had eight different managers in the last decade with Zidane in his second stint at the club.

The player’s brother, Mathias Pogba has been vocal this summer about the unhappiness of his kin at the Old Trafford club, amongst quotes from Raiola, Pogba’s agent suggesting similar for the Frenchman. It seems that a move away from United is something that is likely to happen at some point, perhaps January or next summer. Mathias Pogba, speaking to El Chiringuito, said:

“Paul knows that he cannot leave Manchester United so he’s going to focus on this season.

“It’s not easy right now, because he has a lot of responsibility in the team. A lot of big players have left.

“The only great player is De Gea, the goalkeeper, which means he’s going to have to put a lot of effort in every game.”

If Pogba does have his heart on a move to Real Madrid, it is only a matter of time before he leaves the club. So much for the unfinished business that he had at United. During some matches, Pogba is unplayable but in others, it is hard to believe that he is a professional player. It would seem that some sections of the fanbase would miss him, others would not.

August Review: Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James star in mixed month for Manchester United

Manchester United played four matches in the Premier League during August, winning once, drawing once and losing once. United scored six goals, conceded three goals, kept one clean sheet, won four Premier League points, and found out their fate in the Carabao Cup and the group stages of the UEFA Europa League. August gave United time between matches but September, with the international break, will be busy.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw the season start in style with a 4-0 victory over Frank Lampard’s Chelsea at Old Trafford seeing Marcus Rashford score a brace (one from the spot), Anthony Martial and Daniel James score a debut goal in front of the Stretford End. This was followed by a 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux with Anthony Martial on the scoresheet once again.

Crystal Palace defeated United 2-1 at Old Trafford. Daniel James scored a consolation goal for United, in front of the Stretford End once again. It was a poor result for United. Against Southampton, a team United needed to hit back against, it was another 1-1 draw after Daniel James opened the scoring with United having many chances, unable to cause the home side many problems.

United also found out their fate in the Carabao Cup, where they will face Rochdale at Old Trafford in the third round of the tournament, and in the UEFA Europa League, where they will face FC Astana of Kazakhstan, Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands in the group stages of the competition.

Marcus Rashford – four appearances, 355 minutes played, two goals scored and one assist.

Marcus Rashford started the new Premier League season well with two goals, one from the spot, against Chelsea in a 4-0 victory at Old Trafford. Rashford also got an assist against Wolves in the second match of the season, which ended his contribution, at least for goals and assists for the month. Rashford has a lot to learn and time to grow. Can he become a player that is capable of leading the line for United? We shall see.

Anthony Martial – three appearances, 270 minutes played, two goals scored and one assist.

The Frenchman was reunited with his number nine shirt after Romelu Lukaku was sold to Inter Milan this summer. It seemed to be a good thing as Martial scored the second goal against Chelsea at Old Trafford. He then continued that with a goal against Wolves. Against Crystal Palace, Martial was not a goalscorer but he got the assist before suffering an injury at the end of the match, missing the 1-1 draw with Southampton.

Daniel James – four appearances, 285 minutes played, three goals scored.

It was a great start to the Welshman’s United career. Scoring the fourth goal against Chelsea less than ten minutes after he made his debut, scoring in front of the Stretford End, Daniel James made his first start in the second match of the season, the draw with Wolves. He was not on the scoresheet in that game. Against Palace, he scored again, in front of the Stretford End, scoring the third goal of his career against Southampton. What a start for the 21-year-old who can now build on that confidence in international duty with Wales.

Notable Mentions: Harry Maguire, Paul Pogba, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Andreas Pereira.

During the first month of the season, there have been a few players whose performances need to be mentioned. Andreas Pereira got an assist against Chelsea, Paul Pogba has two assists to his name, both against Chelsea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka has played four times for United, putting in great performances each time and Harry Maguire, who has largely been a rock at the back for the Old Trafford club. September will be a tougher month for this squad in their bid on the road to improvement.

Who is your Player of the Month for August 2019?

A look at what lies ahead in September…

In September, United will play five matches. After the first international break of the season, United start at home to Leicester City (14/9). The first Europa League match, at home to FC Astana follows (19/9), followed by West Ham United away (22/9). Then Rochdale at home in the Carabao Cup (25/9), ending the month with Arsenal at home (30/9).

Looking at Manchester United’s attacking depth for the 2019/20 season

Manchester United has some of the fastest attacking players in the Premier League this season. The departure of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and the rumoured departure of Alexis Sanchez is going to create more chances for youth to shine at the club, which is something that is clear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is about.

Anthony Martial has been given his old number nine shirt back, a number he wore when he had his best season at the club to date. Perhaps he can now kick on and put the last two years behind him and find the route to success with the club. Marcus Rashford is a player who has risen in stature and was chosen to play ahead of Lukaku last season.

A player who is now getting the same finishing training that Cristiano Ronaldo received at the club, with Solskjaer clearly looking to get Rashford firing in the goals. After his brace against Chelsea last week; one from the penalty spot, he’s certainly heading in the right direction to increase his goals this season, scoring 13 in all competitions last season.

Attacking midfield depth; five players able to play here, four of them likely to be rotated here during the season.

This is an area which some would include in the midfield, however, with the 4-2-3-1 formation which Solskjaer predominantly uses, this is considered part of the attack, which is why it has been included in this part of the series of squad depth articles. In this area, which in the 4-2-3-1 formation, focuses on the number ten position, or the second striker role.

There are five players that could play in this position; Jesse Lingard, Angel Gomes, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, and Alexis Sanchez, providing he remains at the club, which may not be the case with the links to Inter. Of course, Solskjaer could draft in more youth if this position becomes problematic. Lingard seems the clear starter, based on the Chelsea match.

If Pogba was played in this position, the midfield would struggle, unless the trusted players performed to the best of their abilities and found a way to deal with their roles, leaving Pogba to play a more creative role. However, with Gomes, Mata and to a point, Sanchez, Pogba may not need to play in this position.

Winger depth; seven players able to play in these position but two of those may not be suited.

Since Daniel James arrived from Swansea City for £15 million in the summer, there was a clear problem on the wing for United. The right-wing position was literally none existent with the likes of Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Martial and even Lukaku playing there. Since James arrived, there are more options with United able to utilise the pace of players.

There are seven players able to play on the wing; Martial, Rashford, James, Mata, Sanchez, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood. Five of the seven offer pace, ability, determination and hunger. Mata offers the ability to read the game, although a central position, when he plays, would be better for the squad.

James made his Premier League debut a week ago, coming on in the second half against Chelsea, scoring less than ten minutes later. His pace was problematic for Chelsea and he used his own mistake in the box to carve his name into the history books at the club. Greenwood, Chong, Martial and Rashford also have the pace, although one of the latter two will play a different role. The depth is alright here.

Striker depth; four players are able to play in this area but two of them are destined to lead the line

This is the area which despite Lukaku leaving the club this summer, could well be problematic for Solskjaer. He never replaced the Belgian and unless he has a plan to sign a free agent, will probably stick to what he has in the squad. Martial has led the line against Chelsea and Rashford is also capable of playing here.

Looking at the depth, there are other options which include Greenwood, Sanchez (if he stays), and Lingard (to a point). It may look a bit weak if you look past Martial and Rashford but for one position in the team, there are four options, with more if you look to the academy. D’Mani Bughail-Mellor has scored a few goals for the U23s already this season.

I am not suggesting that he’s ready to play for the first team, however, was Rashford ready before he scored the brace against Midtjylland back in February 2016, then following suit against Arsenal in the Premier League days later? Solskjaer has a few different options and if he tries other players out in this position, he might find that he has more.

I would suggest that this is going to be between both Rashford and Martial for the large part of the season. If Rashford leads the line, Martial could be rested with James playing on the left-wing. If Martial starts, Rashford could play on the left, or James could play there, giving Rashford a rest. It is obviously not the best but could work.

If Sanchez stays this season, I am not saying he will be a starter, but he will be an option, but if rumours are true, he has asked to leave the club and could be on his way out. Could Solskjaer sign a free agent to bolster his side? There are options, although not great ones. I think he would prefer to utilise the talented youth players in the mix.

With Rashford working on his finishing and Martial looking to overcome a turbulent time at United, it could be the winner that everyone is hoping for. There are good players in both of these two and it is about time that they showed themselves and stood up to be counted. If Solskjaer manages to turn the tide with this squad, he can do anything.

The formation above shows the depth in all four of the attacking positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation. If different formations are played, the depth will still be there but it will obviously increase/decrease in various positions. Solskjaer will have a plan of what he is aiming to achieve this season. He also has an idea of the players he will need to target either in January or next summer.

Sir Alex Ferguson once said that ‘attack wins you matches but defence wins you titles’. The defence is the strongest part of United’s squad with the attack being the second strongest area in the squad. The midfield has weaknesses which need to be strengthened but that could be done without money, giving youth players opportunities over time.

Obviously, supporters of the club expected major changes this summer, which was never going to happen. Every summer you see supporters demanding that players are sold etc but in most cases, it does not happen as it is not an easy thing to do. Then, toxicity comes into the fan base and people moan incessantly, which is boring.

Looking at Manchester United’s midfield depth for the 2019/20 season

Manchester United’s midfield is somewhat depleted following the departure of Marouane Fellaini in January and Ander Herrera leaving the club as a free agent in the summer. At least that is what the moaning relates to as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have strengthened the midfield during the summer transfer window.

However, the Norwegian opted to sign a winger instead, in Daniel James, who arrived for £15 million from Swansea City. It was a summer that saw Paul Pogba state to the media that he wanted a new challenge and one which saw United linked to a number of different midfielders. Bruno Fernandes was linked to the club for the entire summer window.

Some will suggest that United’s midfield is weak and there are no positives should Pogba actually leave before the European window closes, or if he suffers from an injury. However, as an optimist, I see options, not great options but options for players to grow and learn a place in the midfield. However, some will not be happy with this fix.

Defensive midfield depth; a player on the decline or players lacking experience.

Nemanja Matic is the player with experience in the defensive midfield position. But as last season and during pre-season has clearly shown, the Serbian has lost his pace, is slow and on the decline. Based on this, he will not be expected to play a big role at the club this season. There are players under him with less experience.

At this moment in time, Scott McTominay will start ahead of Matic as he has been offering more to the team than Matic can at the minute, possibly for the future too. In rotation, McTominay could be challenged by Andreas Pereira and Tim Fosu-Mensah, once he has recovered from knee surgery. Another option is James Garner.

It might not be something that you would consider great depth but it is still depth nonetheless. McTominay has developed into a decent midfielder and that has not finished for him. Having the likes of Pereira, Fosu-Mensah and Garner, also Matic means there are options there if there needs to be. Solskjaer has a plan and he will follow that plan.

Central midfield depth; Pogba has little competition for a starting central midfield role.

In this position, Paul Pogba is the player that others will need to get past in order to play regularly, at least in the 4-2-3-1 formation with only two midfielders. In another formation, say 4-3-3, a third midfielder would be given the chance to earn their place in the team. However, the 4-2-3-1 formation has been used most often by Solskjaer.

If Pogba was to be injured or was rested keeping in mind bigger matches during the course of the season, the likes of Fred and Andreas Pereira could replace him in the team. Fred could also play as a defensiveminded midfielder but this being his second season, it would be best to see him play this role. Garner too, however, it may be too soon for him.

Pereira has done well, however, I am not sure the centre of midfield is where Pereira should be playing; he played on the right-wing for periods against Chelsea last weekend. The depth here is not the greatest but it will have to do, until January at least when Solskjaer may make a move to strengthen his squad. Failing that, it will be next summer.

The formation above shows the depth of the midfield. There are seven players competing for a central midfield role, of which in the current formation, two will start each match. If the formation changes, there could be a further place available in the team. There is some strengthening needed but that doesn’t just mean buying players.

There are many players in the team that could be used in these positions if the need arises. I am sure Juan Mata could play a central role, as could Angel Gomes. It might not be ideal but it could work. However, with the seven names to fortify these positions, it would take a long injury list to ensure Solskjaer played other players out of their favoured positions.

The depth is there, although it is not as magnificent as it might be. But the way I look at things, the depth of the squad, at least in the striker role was not great in the 2015/16 season and after Anthony Martial injured himself in the warm-up ahead of the Midtjylland match, Marcus Rashford may not have had the impact in which he’s had. Every cloud and all that!

copyright: JW