Two consecutive 4-0 wins commenced Manchester United’s Premier League campaign with a bang, leaving Red Devils anxious for more free-flowing, attacking football. Unfortunately for Jose Mourinho’s men, the international break after Saturday’s clash with Leicester City threatens to halt the excellent rhythm that has been reached early.
However, before worrying about the international break, one more match must be focused on to ensure three more points and a perfect start to the season. Leicester, a side barely denied a win against Arsenal before comfortably dispatching Brighton, are no pushover, and should be the most difficult challenge for United thus far.
Jose Mourinho has used a 4-2-3-1 formation thus far in the Premier League, but the slightly quiet performances of Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford combined with the strength of Craig Shakespeare’s two midfielders could make this the perfect opportunity for Mourinho to switch to a trio and gain a tactical advantage.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Two clean sheets, excellent leadership and composure, and very little testing from opposition should result in a third consecutive start for David De Gea. The Spanish international aspires to pick up his fifth golden glove in the last six seasons and has made a good start against West Ham and Swansea.
Defence: Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Daley Blind
Given the performance of Jose Mourinho’s defence in the first two matches, it would be ridiculous for the Portuguese manager to change his back four before the break unless he feels the need for a specific player to return against Stoke City.
Antonio Valencia has been a mark of consistency since the beginning of last season, and with Timothy Fosu-Mensah loaned to Crystal Palace, he remains unchallenged for the right-back berth. His opposite fullback has been Daley Blind for the first two matches of the season, and the Dutchman was particularly impressive in both matches.
Similar to Valencia in presence is Eric Bailly, a player who has almost always featured when available since joining the club. Once again, he should be joined by Phil Jones, who seems to have found a new level of composure and ball-playing early this season as he seeks to fulfill upon his long-professed promise at Old Trafford.
Midfield: Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba
In the opening two weeks of the season, no midfielders in England have been better than Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba, who have controlled midfield with consummate ease thus far. Matic is excellent at shielding United’s third and keeping the ball in opposition territory, where Paul Pogba is known for being one of the best operators in the world.
Joining him should be Ander Herrera, a player who will be important considering Leicester’s tendency to counter-attack. Herrera and Matic together should prevent Leicester’s midfield from breaking due to the former’s ability to press opposition to win the ball in their half and the latter’s tendency to sit and break down attacks that surpass the Spaniard.
Forwards: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial
Minutes of chances have been buried in predatorial fashion by Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Romelu Lukaku. The former has scarcely been involved in either Premier League match but has four assists to his name, while the latter has already scored three goals. They could be one of the most lethal front duos in football if given the opportunity to shine throughout the season.
Joining them could be Anthony Martial, who has been directly involved in three Premier League goals in just 25 minutes of football this season. His innovative and clinical skills have been at full flow in the opening two matches, but one could argue that this is related to Marcus Rashford, who has run defenders ragged in both matches before Martial’s introduction and allowed the Frenchman to destroy teams and could therefore also start.