March 3, 2020
Manchester United will be back in Emirates FA Cup action on Thursday evening as they travel to face Derby County at Pride Park. Phillip Cocu’s side will be seeking to do what they did under Frank Lampard – beat United and earn a quarter-final place in the tournament this season. However, at Pride Park, United have a good record, winning in their last two visits, losing in the one before which was about a decade ago.
Solskjaer will be hoping that United do better than they did against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday, coming away with a point after a 1-1 draw, which could have easily been a defeat for United with VAR cancelling out a late winner for the home aide. VAR will not be involved at Pride Park on Thursday though. United need to ensure their eight match unbeaten run continues ahead of Sunday’s test.
United will be back in Premier League action this weekend with Manchester City travelling to the Theatre of Dreams for the second Manchester derby (in the league) this season, effectively the fourth derby of the season with the Carabao Cup matches included. A win against Derby will keep the belief high and despite winning at the Etihad twice this season, doing it at home will be more important.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Derby County in the Emirates FA Cup at Pride Park on Thursday evening…
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
Sergio Romero has been a player United need when he has ben called upon this season. Calm and composed, the Argentinian is a great stand in goalkeeper. With David De Gea in a period whereby his form has come under question, giving him the time to overcome that in training, especially ahead of an important match against Manchester City at the weekend. Romero gives his best every time he plays and has kept many clean sheets when he has played this season.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
The defence has been in good form at this stage of the season. Against Derby though, one change will be needed. Victor Lindelof needs to sit out of matches for a period of time as he has not been the confident player that he has been in the past. Eric Bailly should be given the chance to form a partnership with Harry Maguire in the back for. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw should keep their places as the fullbacks in the starting XI for this game. United have only conceded two goals in their last eight matches, which is seeing them head in the right direction at an important stage of the season – the business end.
Midfield: Fred, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay
The midfield has been gaining strength with injured players coming back at an important time. With the signing of Bruno Fernandes and the return to fitness and form of Scott McTominay, added to the fact that Paul Pogba is nearing his long-awaited return, the strength in the midfield will be the best it has been for a number of years. Against Derby, I expect to see a three-man midfield, like the one which played against Everton on Sunday with McTominay, Nemanja Matic and Fred all starting.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
The Portuguese international has been a breath of fresh air since he signed for the club in January. In six appearances so far, Fernandes has three goals, two assists and four MOTM awards from the club. This is great to see with United lacking creativity in the team this season with Pogba and McTominay on the sidelines for long periods of time. Fernandes is he guy that can do the damage to the opposition that United have been seeking for a while. Having him play ahead of a three-man midfield and behind a two-man forward line could be devastating for Derby and other opposition this season.
Forwards: Odion Ighalo, Anthony Martial
United have a good striker in Odion Ighalo and after he scored his first goal for the club in the UEFA Europa League against Club Brugge, he will be seeking to score many more. The Premier League has been a happy hunting ground for him in the past and he could unlock that soon. Against Derby though, he could get himself to cut his teeth a bit more, showing the Championship side the difference between the two clubs now. Playing with Anthony Martial could be key with Martial doing a lot more in attacking areas than other players with Ighalo being in the box to latch onto crosses and hold up the play in the box with United on the attack. It could be a match to unlock the goals.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot, Brandon Williams; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard; Mason Greenwood
Solskjaer will need to have players available on the bench if the need arises for them to be involved in the game. David De Gea will be the goalkeeper on the bench and will be beneficial if needed. In defence, Axel Tuanzebe could be on the bench giving some different options with Diogo Dalot and Brandon Williams offering in both fullback positions, also at wing-back if the formation needs to be changes. In midfield, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard could offer something, the latter option needs to start doing just that. In the forward area, Mason Greenwood could be the player to offer something from the bench, if it is needed but it would be good to see him involved somewhere.