August 12, 2017
Manchester United start their Premier League season against West Ham United at Old Trafford on Sunday. Jose Mourinho will be seeking a good start in the league this season, three points at home would do just that, Hammers manager Slaven Bilic will be looking for a good start too. United have had the better pre-season, playing eight matches in total, one of those the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid earlier in the week. During pre-season, Mourinho has been trying out different formations, namely the 3-5-2 formation, which has many different versions, a 3-4-3 being possible. Whether Mourinho starts that at home remains to be seen. I think United will play 4-3-3, which should see both Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera having free roles in midfield with Nemanja Matic sitting in front of the back four and keeping watch for his teammates.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI (4-3-3):
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The Spanish goalkeeper will be back to his best after his summer break. David De Gea has Sergio Romero as his back up goalkeeper, a fine keeper to have in reserve, which sees United strong, even when Jose Mourinho is rotating his keepers. De Gea is the best number one in the Premier League at this moment in time and will be looking to strengthen his side with a clean sheet, the first of the season. He may have to come against Javier Hernandez, but United’s defence should have enough to stop the Mexican from finding the back of the net.
Back Four: Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian
United’s back four will be a mismatch until Luke Shaw is fit to play again. Mourinho has already confirmed that he, Ashley Young and Marcos Rojo will remain on the sidelines. Shaw could be back in September, but whether that means fit to train or fit to play, remains to be seen. Antonio Valencia is the guy many want to see as the right back, getting forward and creating chances, also putting pressure on the opposition’s defence. Matteo Darmian should start because he is the best defensive minded fullback at the club, which creates a back three, so to speak, with him, Bailly and Jones the line of defence ahead of De Gea. Eric Bailly and Phil Jones were both suspended for the UEFA Super Cup and both are fit to face the Hammers. Mourinho will be looking to keep his side fresh early in the season, which could see much rotation. Victor Lindelof may need some time to settle, not looking the sure starter just yet, but will and should be given time.
Midfield Three: Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba
United’s midfield three could dominate in the Premier League this season. Real Madrid were the dominating midfield on Tuesday, but the Premier League does not have a club like the Madrid side, so United will not have to come up against a team as strong. Nemanja Matic should make his Premier League debut for United, sitting in front of the back four and allowing both Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba to play further up field and do their thing. Herrera could be called to mark some of the attacking or creative West Ham players, leaving Pogba to create and try to find the back of the net. Last season, the Frenchman was unlucky not to score many goals, he hit the woodwork many times, which shows his class and determination. This season, now Pogba is free of his ‘most expensive player in the world’ label, he could just surprise all of his critics.
Forward Three: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial
United forward three have the class, guile, pace, and determination to score for the club this season. Henrikh Mkhitaryan showed his class last season, scoring many goals, most of them in the UEFA Europa League. During pre-season, he has bagged a few goals but has also looked out of sorts at times, which could be worrying ahead of the new season. Still, if he is not chosen, Marcus Rashford could fill in the void in this position. Perhaps Mkhitaryan is better through the middle, but in a 4-3-3, there is not a number ten player and Mkhitaryan would not do what Pogba does in midfield, so a wing role, in this formation at least will be his. Anthony Martial on the other flank will be great for United. The Frenchman did not play against Real Madrid, suggesting he could start on Sunday. He needs to and also needs to have a great game, silence his critics who suggest he is not happy and does not want to be at the club. Romelu Lukaku, the striker will be on fire for United if they play well. Last season he scored 25 goals for Everton and with a better class of player behind him, but could see him bang more goals in the back of the net. Joe Hart, are you ready?