April 26, 2019
Manchester United will be back to the drawing board at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon when they face Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea in the Premier League. United has endured seven defeats in the last nine matches, not being the same side who beat Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital at the start of March.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have seen some improvement in his squad against Manchester City, at least for the first half of Wednesday’s match but he will not be happy overall as the media are just waiting in the wings to turn on him as they have with every manager since Sir Alex Ferguson. Returning to winning ways is important to be able to move on.
United still have the chance of finishing in the top four this season, although if they fail to beat Chelsea, it will, in effect, all be over. There are three Premier League matches remaining this season and United need to start finding a route to form, which seems to be more of a wish than something that will actually happen.
United and Chelsea have played 182 competitive matches. United has won the most matches with 78 victories, drawing 50 and losing 54. United won this fixture 2-1 last season, and draw 2-2 at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, winning 2-0 in the Emirates FA Cup in February. Restoring faith by the supporters is necessary as United need the victory in this match.
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
David De Gea is clearly off his game. He performed some saves against Manchester City but conceded two goals, one of them a poor goal to concede. Perhaps with his contract renewal and other speculation, he should be kept out of the team as he clearly is not focussed. Sergio Romero is a competent replacement and should start the last few matches of the season.
Defence: Diogo Dalot, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw
The defence is a massive problem area this season. 50 goals conceded in the Premier League alone, the highest number of goals conceded for 40 years. Another 16 conceded in other competitions. Diogo Dalot should be blooded into the right-back role, also keeping Luke Shaw at left-back. Chris Smalling has played well with Victor Lindelof and both should keep their place in this team.
Midfield: Andreas Pereira, Scott McTominay
The midfield is an important part of this United team. Nemanja Matic has lost his legs, at least his last performance substantiates that opinion. Therefore, Scott McTominay should be drafted into the team. He has received lots of criticism of late but has been one of a few players to put in a performance. That mentality needs to be rewarded. Andreas Pereira should feature also as it seems that he wants to progress in this team.
Attacking Midfield: Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial
This is an area of the United team that needs to be on the ball. I have little faith in these players being able to do that job as of late, it seems they perform when they want to, which is not a good impression on them. However, they need to play in this game. Paul Pogba has played better in an advanced role, Marcus Rashford could support Lukaku and Anthony Martial just needs to remember what a footballer does. Hint: it is not what he has been doing for the last few months.
Forwards: Romelu Lukaku
The Belgian is out of form and has not scored a single goal for United since his brace against Paris Saint-Germain which helped United win that match 3-1 and reach the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League. Since that night, Lukaku has played in the last seven matches, starting five, not making an impact, which is worrying. However, he has been in this predicament before and the lack of creativity does not help him.
Substitutes: Lee Grant; Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred; Alexis Sanchez
I would much rather see youth given a chance in the first team at this stage of the season but with the U23s facing Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday evening and the U18s facing Everton on Saturday morning, it would be unfair to expect the players from these ranks to play again on Sunday. However, against Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City, the youth could be given a chance after a long season.