Manchester United host Newcastle United at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday. Club football returns for three weeks and, with it, a host of midweek fixtures to boot. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has no new injury worries following the international break and is set to start his latest and final new signing of the summer.
United’s match is at 3pm in Manchester, which means the Cristiano Ronaldo reunion will not be televised (live in the UK). Solskjær will be hoping for an instant impact from the 36-year-old. United already have an enviable run of games in September, since boosted by a kind Champions League draw, and a healthy points tally should be banked during this period. Plus, the opportunity to rotate and give vital minutes in the EFL Cup to many fringe players.
David de Gea
Dean Henderson is back in training and with it United’s goalkeeping saga of last season resurfaces. For the weekend, however, David de Gea should keep his position in the team, and the Spaniard did himself no harm with a staggering double save which kept United’s ultimately crucial clean sheet intact at Wolves.
Helpfully, midweek fixtures will ease Henderson back into competition but it may be De Gea again starting in the cups when Henderson is ready. Watch this space.
Assured and outstanding on his debut at Molineux, even with the bumpy introduction Raphaël Varane’s new teammates gave him. Old Trafford will be a special occasion for a Rolls-Royce defender United so badly needed to partner Harry Maguire.
Solskjær: "They're all training. Dean [Henderson] has not got the after-effect and tiredness anymore, that's very positive. Telles is not 100 per cent yet, still a few weeks and Scott [McTominay] has recovered very quickly from the operation." #mulive— utdreport (@utdreport) September 10, 2021
Scott McTominay also returned to training following groin surgery but is likely short of starting.
United have major issues in central midfield, if they didn’t already, given the uncertainty of Fred’s availability at the hands of FIFA. The cheap snark at Fred’s potential absence is rather foolish given this now leaves a creaking Nemanja Matić or a lightweight and not defensively-minded Donny van de Beek to partner Paul Pogba. Unless Solskjær gets desperate and goes leftfield with a defender.
I am a:— Brent (@brentmaximin) August 23, 2021
desperate Manchester United fan
literally any holding midfielder
Pogba’s shift in central midfield with Fred at Wolves was not a great success but the Frenchmen must make this position work for him and United. To do that, Pogba requires a reliable foil and there are slim pickings for Saturday. Victor Lindelöf or Phil Jones in midfield slim. While we wait to see if McTominay can fair any better with Pogba, stability in the middle of the park rests on Matić who was woeful in the 1-1 draw at Southampton.
While the hubbub will be all about Ronaldo, one of Jadon Sancho, Edinson Cavani or Mason Greenwood will miss out on a starting place in the side. And that’s before Marcus Rashford returns.
Sancho picked up a knock with England but is expected to be fit and could start with Greenwood. Greenwood has been United’s best player over the course of last month and should be prioritised in Solskjaer’s thinking, even if he’s moved across to a wide position again. Expect Cavani and Ronaldo to fight over one spot spearheading the attack – a nice problem to have with plenty of matches to go around – and Bruno Fernandes to be licking his lips at the options ahead.
Ronaldo appears to have signed for Manchester United five times over in the last fortnight, coming “home” more often than Jack Duckworth’s pigeons. https://t.co/atc9BPhoDu— John Brewin (@JohnBrewin_) September 9, 2021
The international break has given room for the whirlwind transfer to settle in fans’ minds, if not the club social accounts. Concerns if you’re a Red not enamoured with Ronaldo will fade as the business of playing and winning comes into focus; hardwired hearts and minds who love sport and their team take over.
Your true feelings on a match as a supporter are often unveiled with the first 50/50 ball to be won. Huh – turns out you do care about Jesse Lingard getting stuck into West Ham at home in the league cup, etc. Rather than Ronaldo’s first goal, assist, or piece of skill on his return to United, perhaps an early bit of aggravation involving the Portuguese is where those who wonder whether suspending their belief in a man with a significant cloud hanging over him can be achieved.