Manchester United travel to West Bromwich Albion for the weekend’s Premier League fixture. United will have had a leisurely five-day break between games, while West Brom will be fresher still with no midweek obligations.
United needed extra time on Tuesday to see off West Ham in a listless FA Cup tie. Attention now turns back to the league campaign where 19th placed West Brom will be looking to take anything off a still wobbly United to provide some cheer. United, meanwhile, should be aiming to extract maximum points from their next three league matches prior to a meeting with Manchester City in three weeks.
With Paul Pogba sidelined, Scott McTominay is now Manchester United’s best central midfielder. The 24-year-old Scotsman cuts an imposing figure in the middle of the park and, without the craft of Pogba, provides United with unshackled drive and purpose. Pogba’s absence means McTominay is released from mopping up duties, partnering with either Fred or Nemanja Matić, and seems to be enjoying himself immensely.
Marcus Rashford played the full 120 minutes ensuring United had the pace, width and composure to get the winner against West Ham before penalties. The extra day or two break between fixtures may mean Rashford can start again this weekend – but United have already lost Pogba to injury and cannot continue to gamble on key players’ fitness and fatigue.
Edinson Cavani is likely to return and, as the central striker, only needs one of Rashford or Anthony Martial behind to his left. Martial struggled again up front in the cup and may welcome the opportunity out wide to find some much-needed form.
Settled into his role on the right and now in fine fettle after a ‘blip’ earlier this season, Mason Greenwood has played the last three matches on the spin for United. Another player who will need to be rotated soon but perhaps not just yet – and will be hungry for goals to show from his recent performances.
Bruno Fernandes came on to rescue United and Donny van de Beek in midweek. There’s some sympathy for Van de Beek, not least that he has briefly shown more aptitude as a creative no. 8 for United than as a no. 10. Nevertheless, Fernandes should return to the starting line-up as Ole Gunnar Solskjær looks to banish the damaging 3-3 draw with Everton and United’s recent inconsistency.
RIP Juan Mata
Pogba has long drifted away from the no. 10 conversation in favour of getting on the ball further back, and is injured, while Van de Beek currently looks ropey there. Yet Mata can’t even get in the matchday squad as backup for Fernandes. Amad Diallo may be eyeing opportunities on the right of midfield but, in a compacted season, hopefully Mata can relieve Fernandes when required and in his preferred position.
Alex Telles had a good 90 minutes for United at West Ham and is providing healthy competition for Luke Shaw, who replaced Telles before extra time. Unfortunately for Telles, Shaw is having a fantastic season and should cause West Brom headaches down the left.
Henderson or De Gea
Don’t fancy the manager’s decision with this one at all. But maybe it’s time to keep Dean Henderson between the posts on Sunday, along with the Europa League games, and see where it takes him.