Manchester United have to wait until the final game of the weekend until they begin their Premier League campaign against Chelsea at Old Trafford. It’s debatable what’s preferable for big games: an unaffected, if anxious, weekend waiting or a weekend influenced already by a result. Whichever, United must set the tone for their season and aren’t afforded a gentle start to proceedings.
Shifting early scrutiny
A win of any description will do. This is not the time to get bogged down in wishlists for the season ahead. While setting up not to lose foremost in big games is pragmatic and often tempting, the repercussions of doing so and then still losing could be disastrous. United are at home and, with a clean slate, have an opportunity to put pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s opposite number, Frank Lampard. United shouldn’t be naive, of course, but Solskjær should start as he means to go on.
A win for United over Chelsea would be a huge confidence boost and worth the risk. United desperately need positive momentum with other tough early fixtures ahead. Turning the spotlight towards a rival manager in an equally delicate and inexperienced position would be a welcome bonus for Solskjær.
Not Nemanja Matić
United have a lot of exciting academy graduates in their squad wanting to establish themselves this season, under a manager who is minded to give them opportunities. An opener against Chelsea is perhaps not the time for many, if any, of them. Experience and game management is required. As such, the temptation for Solskjær to select Matić will be great - experience, familiarity with their opponents and the perceived protection he offers the defence.
Matić, however, is more likely to invite pressure pitted amongst a superior and quicker midfield. Mobility issues are markedly less severe for the Serb when he’s fresher - but if preseason is anything to go by, Matić’s either not there yet or never getting there.
United would be better served with someone quicker - Fred (stop laughing at the back) or Andreas Pereira - if they play three across the midfield, or alongside Scott McTominay if no Paul Pogba. You can see why Solskjær will be tempted looking at the options. Better to go out on the front foot, though, all things considered.
Welcome composure for the defence. Hopefully it’s evident immediately, and Maguire’s not aghast and scratching his head come full-time.
A less than ideal situation. If picked, Pogba should demonstrate his worth with the required application to help his teammates he’s apparently so revered by. See Wayne Rooney.
Whether from the left or centrally, it’d be great if Rashford got off to a flyer. United need goals and Rashford needs to provide them. Rashford may well epitomise United this season, for better or worse. Under Solskjær, there’s every chance he’ll deliver.