Manchester United will look to avoid embarrassment at home to third-tier Sheffield United on Saturday, with the Blades visiting Old Trafford as Louis van Gaal's side kick off their FA Cup campaign. The tournament offers some much needed respite from the stresses and strains of the Premier League, as well as a good opportunity to build some momentum on the back of the win scraped over Swansea City. Van Gaal will almost certainly use this as an opportunity to give some of his beleaguered first team some rest, and, who knows, we may even be entertained as a result. Don't count on it, though.
United have met Sheffield United in a total of 92 competitive matches, with the first being a 3-1 defeat away at Bramall Lane as Newton Heath back in 1893. They last met back in the 2007 edition of the Premier League, with United running out winners home and away. Since then the Blades have suffered a significant downturn in fortunes, and currently find themselves down in League One's mid-table. Suffice to say, Nigel Adkins' side will do very well to avoid defeat away at Old Trafford and force a replay.
Long-termers Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Marcos Rojo are all still out. United will be also be without Phil Jones as the result of an ankle injury, while Ashley Young is one of a few players in the fitness "red zone," and won't be involved. Morgan Schneiderlin and Michael Carrick are likely to be rested. Adnan Januzaj has returned from a very disappointing loan at Borussia Dortmund but is unlikely to play: he's not in a "red zone" but quite the opposite, and finds himself severely lacking in match fitness. Maybe, a "blue zone"? Anyway, Jesse Lingard could make his return to action, while Andreas Pereira may be given a long-awaited start. Will Keane is also expected to be involved, if only from the bench.
Sheffield United should have striker and Salford native Matt Done back available after a hamstring injury. Manager Adkins has revealed Done is one of a few players suffering with minor problems, but he didn't rule anyone out of contention for the trip to Old Trafford.
We must confess, we don't spend much time (read: none) watching League One, so this is going to be short and not particularly sweet. Nigel Adkins has generally tended to play with a variant of the standard 4-4-2 since taking charge, with Matt Done usually tucking in behind Billy Sharp and bolstering the midfield when out of possession. We can surely expect them to play with the more defensive of their default strategies at Old Trafford, meaning United's task will be, as ever, trying to break down a dogged defence.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Sergio Romero; Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Daley Blind, Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ander Herrera; Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, Andreas Pereira; Anthony Martial.
Sheffield United (4-4-1-1): George Long; Jay McEveley, Neill Collins, David Edgar, John Brayford; Martyn Woolford, Dean Hammond, Chris Basham, Paul Coutts; Matt Done; Billy Sharp.