Manchester United have had an erratic start to the 2019/20 season. The squad has been hampered with injuries and poor performances, leading many fans and pundits alike to the question: who makes up Manchester United’s best XI? This past week, former-players-turned-pundits Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves discussed their choices, and I’ve decided to follow suit. To make this team as realistic as possible, I will be basing my selection on current form, experience, and fitness. Although United has experimented with a 5-3-2 (or a 3-5-2 if the wingbacks are considered to be part of the midfield), for simplicity’s sake this side will be set up in a 4-3-3. Here is how I would field Manchester United:
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The most obvious choice on the list, De Gea is one of the best in the world. He recently signed a new contract and should continue as United’s number one for years.
Right Back: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
United’s new signing is off to a flying start at Old Trafford. Nicknamed The Spider for his ability to catch opponents in his web of tackles, Wan-Bissaka has been one of the Red Devils’ most consistent performers this season and has firmly established himself as the first choice right back.
Left Back: Brandon Williams
With Shaw still on the treatment table, the choice at left back comes down to three players: Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, and Brandon Williams. At 34 years-old, converted winger Young is over the hump and his inclusions have been frequently cited by United supporters as evidence of the club’s failed transfer business. Rojo will feature elsewhere on this list, which leaves Brandon Williams to own the left side of defense. Make no mistake, this selection is no charity for Williams; the academy graduate has performed more than admirably this season and deserves his spot in this list.
Center Back: Harry Maguire
Things haven’t gone as smoothly as United would have hoped with Maguire, but objectively he is the best center back at the club and has improved the team. As he continues to settle in Manchester and finds a consistent partner, expect Maguire to really find his feet.
Center Back: Marcos Rojo
Axel Tuanzebe and Victor Lindelöf are injured, and the latter’s apparent reversion to his first season woes means his position is far from assured even when he returns. Between Phil Jones and Rojo, the Argentine is the obvious choice. He is quite technical for a defender and is a fearless warrior. If Rojo continues to cut down on his recklessness and manages to stay fit, he can make a case to be the second half of a pair with Maguire.
Defensive Midfield: Scott McTominay
Scott McTominay is a future Manchester United captain. Since breaking into the first team under José Mourinho, McTominay has improved exponentially. His strength, composure, awareness, and a few smart finishes in front of goal have seen him win back-to-back player of the month awards. In addition to his physical qualities, his deep-seated passion for the club is just the icing on the cake. Assuming that he recovers from injury during the break, McTominay is an unquestioned starter.
Defensive Midfield: Andreas Pereira
Although most supporters won’t lament Fred’s absence, Andreas Pereira will undoubtedly be the most controversial selection in this lineup. Pereira has struggled this season when asked to be the main playmaker, but that’s not where he belongs. Against Liverpool, Pereira earned plaudits for his energy, aggression, and pressing, not for his passing. By playing him at the base of the midfield triangle rather than at the point, he will help break up attacks and be a pest for opponents.
Attacking Midfield: Juan Mata
The second most controversial choice is Juan Mata at the 10. Remember, current form and injury status are being considered here, which makes Paul Pogba ineligible. Mata’s only competition is an extremely underwhelming Jesse Lingard. Angel Gomes deserves more minutes, but at the moment his limited appearances mean he cannot be considered. While the diminutive Spaniard may not be anywhere near as quick as Lingard, his creativity and final third passing are what earn him the starting spot.
Right Wing: Daniel James
Dan James has been a revelation for United since signing in the Summer. Initial excitement over his electric speed has grown tenfold, as key goals and stunning assists have shown that there is much more to his game than just pace. Mason Greenwood is unlucky not to be included here, but Dan James rightfully has the edge.
Left Wing: Marcus Rashford
Rashford is one of the most perplexing players in the current squad. On one hand, Rashford has speed, skill, and a thunderous strike. On the other, he lashes at the ball and needs to improve his composure and decision-making. Rashford’s talent is clear and on his day he is a difference maker, so the pros outweigh the cons in his favor. With over 50 goals to his name and still only 21 years-old, Rashford is a key player for this Manchester United side.
Center Forward: Anthony Martial
There is no question about it, Anthony Martial is the main man for Manchester United’s front line. He can create chances out of nothing with his elegant dribbling, hold the ball up with his back to goal, and his link up play — often with Rashford — initiates surgical attacks like the United of old. As long as he maintains consistency and stays healthy, short-sleeves-and-black-gloves Martial is world class.
And here’s how they line up: