Manchester United play Everton at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday lunchtime. United will be hoping for a repeat of the friendly in August where the Reds put four past the Toffees. United and Everton have identical records after six games in the league and sit fourth and fifth respectively, a point off leaders Liverpool.
Everton had no commitments during the week and will be fresh for Saturday, while United attempted to rescue their Champions League group stage hosting Villarreal on Wednesday. United did get the three points required in the end, right at the death, making Group F look a little rosier than before. But Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team were extremely fortunate and rode their luck throughout with alarming frequency. United needed the points, had previous with Villarreal from May to make amends for and had lost their last two matches in succession. The poor performance wasn’t phoned in – which is seriously concerning.
Bigger tests now lie in wait beginning with Everton before the international break.
David de Gea
Kept United in the game against Villarreal and David de Gea seems to thrive when there’s chaos in front of him. Dean Henderson could be kicking his heels for the foreseeable, left to lament his misfortune at being absent for the new season in which De Gea has capitalised on. The response from De Gea, especially after such disappointment in the Europa League final, has been terrific. But only continued consistency in the coming weeks will make De Gea’s renewed standing more permanent.
Sitting out a match suspended and Diogo Dalot’s interim performance has done wonders for Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s credibility, as is so often the case. Dalot offered something of value with some searching passes to the forwards, bypassing midfield, but was liable to get skinned in defence down United’s right. Wan-Bissaka will be welcomed back with open arms to shore up his flank.
Paul Pogba looked visibly miffed immediately after the final whistle walking beside his manager on the pitch, having been substituted for Edinson Cavani to rescue the match against Villarreal. In actual fact, Nemanja Matić effectively replaced Pogba as Jadon Sancho came off at the same time. Cristiano Ronaldo moved to the left, Cavani took up the central forward role, and Matić sat deep in midfield freeing up Scott McTominay.
Solskjær started Pogba in midfield with McTominay and fell back on his conservative double-pivot chasing a game. Not only does that reflect poorly on Pogba, but it also points towards the Frenchman soon being unable to get in the side. Unthinkable last season. Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard should all be ahead of Pogba wide left.
United’s next league games are Everton, Leicester, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City, Watford, Chelsea, and Arsenal. If Pogba is unable to work in a midfield without Matić, and there are better forward options on the left, Pogba may not start the majority of those games where Solskjær is more certain to require two sitting midfielders. Only United could make their midfield worse by buying Sancho and Ronaldo.
Pogba’s loss will be McTominay and Fred’s gain.
Ridiculous how good Bruno Fernandes is at making goals happen when playing shit. Incredible.— United Rewind (@unitedrewind) September 29, 2021
Our Portuguese lord and saviour. Wears the armband well, too.
"@Cristiano is having a great impact on and off the pitch," the boss adds.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 1, 2021
"He has five goals in five games, but we need to manage him so we can keep that going. It's been a good impact so far, and long may it continue." #MUFC | #MUNEVE
Solskjær took umbrage at the lunchtime Saturday kick-off, having played on Wednesday midweek, and may keep Ronaldo on the bench. Ronaldo is probably due a rest anyway and stayed on the pitch to the very end against Villarreal. Fortunate timing, then, that Cavani is available – and if his bustling fifteen-minute cameo to find a winner on Wednesday was anything to go by, Cavani looks fit and ready to start.
▪️ Third-highest scoring teenager in United's history— utdreport (@utdreport) September 30, 2021
▪️ United's youngest ever scorer in a European competition
▪️ Joint-most goals scored for United in a single season aged 18
▪️ One of four teenagers to score 20 Premier League goals
Happy 20th birthday to @masongreenwood pic.twitter.com/bLRFSNb1Bj
Mason Greenwood, no longer a teenager, may not benefit from being overlooked for a central role when Ronaldo sits out, but striking up partnerships with Ronaldo and Cavani will do his impressive development no harm at all.