Still in both the mourning period for Poch and the honeymoon period for Mourinho, we travel tonight to Old Trafford for the first of no doubt many fixtures over the next few months where the identity of our opponents has much poignancy and significance as far as the media are concerned given our publicity hungry new coach.
Our new step-dad’s previous relationship was with these Mancs of course, and like any returning and disgraced parent, he’ll want to arrive and leave with his dignity intact, preferably having reminded those who spurned him why they fell in love with him in the first place.
Our position at the top of the log jam of teams between 5th and 11th in the table was usurped last night by Palace, Man Utd lie 10th. They have won three of their home league games this season, drawn three and lost once, to the aforementioned Palace. They have won just one of their last four league games, a 3-1 victory over Brighton. In the other three they drew with two promoted sides, Villa and the Blades, and lost to Bournemouth.
So we’re not exactly facing a side at the peak of their form.
Their side is full of youngsters, Williams, James, Tuanzebe and Greenwood, all trying to establish themselves whilst many of the ‘older’ hands, Rashford, Perreira, Wan-Bissaka aren’t exactly close to their testimonials. The remainder of their possible line-up, De Gea, Maguire, Fred, Lindelof, Martial, Mata, Lindgard, Shaw consists mostly of players who will feel that they have a point to prove against Mourinho. Oh dear.
Since our change of manager the games have come thick and fast so whilst Jose will be starting to get firm ideas about the players he wants to pick and in what formation, surely much of his team selection will be based upon fitness.
Given his apparent liking for this strange lopsided back four where Aurier spends his time pushed forward whilst the left back rarely crosses the halfway line – and tucks in to the centre backs whenever Aurier disappears over the horizon – it makes sense that Vertonghen gets another outing at left back. He will need more help than he got on Saturday from those in front of him though as there’s no doubt that the speedsters down United’s right, James, Wan-Bissaka and Rashford, will all, quite rightly, fancy their chances in a foot race against him. Maybe Sissoko will be asked to start on that side.
Ndombele’s display at the weekend was patchy thus it would be no surprise to see Dier and Winks take two of the other midfield places. Up front, Harry will start with Dele but the third spot may go to Moura rather than Son. Personally, I thought both he and Lo Celso, when they were brought on against the Cherries took a far more tigerish approach to affairs than usual, at Mourinho’s behest presumably. It’s the approach he’ll look for tonight whilst he attempts to solve the issue of our unbalanced midfield and slow on the turn defence.
This was the game last season that prompted Mourinho’s demand for “respect” from the press post match. Our 3-0 win put him under early season pressure. How he, and we, would love it if we could repeat the trick and leave Ole facing similar questions as to his longevity this time around.
Paul Tierney is the referee.
Have something to tell us about this article?