It seems fair to suggest that things aren't quite going to plan at Old Trafford this week. Not only were United beaten in ignominious fashion by Fenerbahce on Thursday evening, but Paul Pogba sustained a dead leg and is likely to miss Sunday's game against Swansea City.
While Pogba hasn't quite been everything United fans were hoping for, he was already established in the starting XI under Jose Mourinho. So too Ander Herrera, whose slip against Burnley last weekend was punished with a second yellow. Which means that United go into the weekend's game — which may not technically be 'must win', but is certainly 'really, really, really, really would like to win' — without either of their first-choice midfielders. What will United do, in their absence? Who will play in the middle?
Moments of high crisis — which this might be — call for experienced and calm heads, and United have no head more experienced or more calm than Michael Carrick. Having missed the midweek game he should be as fresh as any 35-year-old can be, and his range of passing, short and long, might be useful if Swansea decide to take a defensive approach.
Well, the Morgan Schneiderlin that played for Southampton, and that Manchester United bought, would be perfect. The Morgan Schneiderlin that hasn't managed to impress either Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho in training, however, and hasn't really impressed when given his chances … well, he seems to be a completely different person. Perhaps we shouldn't read too much into his half-time withdrawal against Fenerbahce; between him and Ander Herrera, it's not too unreasonable to stick with the man in better form. But he's running out of time to impress at United, and if he doesn't get the nod on Sunday, we can probably read plenty into that.
The obvious choice for Mourinho, particularly since Pogba's absence robs United of height. We'll be stunned if he doesn't play. You may want to start mentally preparing yourself now.
We kind of suspect he'll start, as he's United's best option for unpicking well-set defences. If United go with something along the lines of a 4-2-3-1, then he could well play as the no. 10; if United prefer a central three, then he'll probably be out on the right.
If he does start — and at this stage, who on earth knows? — then we think it will probably be as a wide player rather than in the middle. That said, part of the appeal of Pogba is his ability to carry the ball past players at pace, thereby breaking the game open, and Mkhitaryan is certainly as capable of doing that from no. 10 as he is from the wing.
If Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling were fit and firing, then this might not be a terrible plan. He can pass, and he's not an idiot most of the time. Though if they were fit and firing, Blind might be at left back. But neither matters: he'll be needed at the back.
Well, if United were rolling from victory to victory and morale was high, then maybe this might the perfect time to throw a kid into the middle and let him have his chance. Since everybody's miserable, however, we'd be very surprised.
Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahah. Oh, mercy.
We should be so lucky.
The Official tBB Predicted Midfield Unit:
Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini behind Juan Mata.