Opening their Champions League campaign with a 3-0 win against Young Boys, Manchester United manager José Mourinho would have been pleased with the performance which continued the positive momentum of the previous two defeats for his side.
However, this weekend, United host Wolves, and as shown by the newly-promoted side’s impressive performance against Manchester City in August, they are no pushover and are quickly adapting to the technical and physical demands of the Premier League.
With aspirations of a fourth consecutive win and getting back on track in the Premier League after consecutive losses in August, Mourinho must choose the correct lineup, and based on recent performances, here’s the team he should persist with in a 4-3-3 formation.
Sergio Romero is yet to play this season and there is nothing to suggest that this is the match where he will, as David de Gea’s incredible display against Watford assured victory for the Red Devils in the late stages of the match.
Against a side comprised mainly of Portuguese players, Saturday’s contest with Wolves could be the perfect opportunity to allow teenaged right-back Diogo Dalot the chance to impress in the Premier League, particularly after an impressive performance against Young Boys. Mourinho is, however, more likely to select the more experienced and defensively sturdy Antonio Valencia.
Considering the drama around United’s lack of centre-back business in the summer, the fact that Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelöf have produced consecutive solid displays in the last two matches could pave the way for a third start in one week. It is harsh on Eric Bailly, United’s best centre-back by a distance despite his poor performance against Brighton that has seen him benched ever since.
Luke Shaw’s excellent defensive and attacking left-back displays so far this season have undoubtedly improved United as a side, and should he be fit to start, he will be one of the first names on the team sheet. Wolves’ preferred 3-4-3 formation could favour the fullback and the left-winger in front of him due to the numerical advantage.
While Marouane Fellaini has been excellent in recent matches, stopping long-balls from Watford and Burnley defenders, Ander Herrera is more suited to starting in midfield in Nemanja Matić’s absence. Fellaini has proven his credentials against certain opposition, but playing him in a match against very technically astute midfielders in Rúben Neves and João Moutinho could end his positive form.
Herrera is not a defensive midfielder by nature, and he will need the help of Fred, who beats Scott McTominay for the second defensively astute place in United’s midfield. Fred has improved with each passing match and could benefit from playing a less physical Wolves side at home.
Paul Pogba ran the show against Young Boys and is beginning to find his mojo again. Looking unhappy in both the media and on the pitch in August, he seems to be finding his momentum at United and a brace in the Champions League will help without doubt. He’s also United’s joint-top scorer thus far.
Anthony Martial produced a solid second-half display against Young Boys, scoring and finding some of his confidence back. Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and particularly Marcus Rashford (suspended for Saturday’s match) have experienced their fair share of problems on the pitch in recent weeks, and the Frenchman’s performance is enough to warrant another start on the left.
This provides an opportunity to try Alexis Sánchez on the right, where he may find more success. Allowing the Chilean forward to move inside towards the striker and cross the ball on his natural foot can only be a recipe for success. Sánchez has not quite found his feet at United but looks to be on the verge of a breakthrough at Old Trafford and perhaps a slight position change could make the difference.
Finally, Romelu Lukaku is a shoo-in up top. The Belgian striker’s goal in the late stages against Young Boys was disallowed as he was offside, but his four goals so far this season are a testament to his importance in José Mourinho’s setup.
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