|Image from 24jambola|
Another critical talking point of our season has been Mourinho’s squad rotation, or lack of. Our starting XI for the clash against Bournemouth was: De Gea resuming his position in goal. In defence, rare starts were given to Matteo Darmian at right-back and the heavily critised Luke Shaw at left-back. At the heart of our defence were the English duo of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. In a three-man midfield, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba started. Youth began the game upfront: Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. The manager definitely responded to players such as Shaw and Martialbeing left out of the team. His team selection displayed the strength in-depth of our squad, utilising the “back-up” players and bringing them to the forefront.
Today’s game will be the third meeting between the two sides in this campaign. The first, at the end of October, saw United claim a late winner thanks to Anthony Martial. In the reverse fixture on the 31st January, we lost 2-0 against Tottenham as Christian Eriksenscored within the first minute of the game and narrowly missed out on the fastest Premier League goal scored in history. Phil Jones may not have the fondest memories of that game, considering he scored an own-goal in the 28thminute.
United’s poor performance against West Brom left Mourinho claiming that “players would be dropped for the FA Cup semi-final”. However, the more encouraging display against Bournemouth has now resulted in the manager believing that his players do want to fight for their right to earn a starting position for this match. De Gea will be expected to start in goal. Especially since our second-choice goalkeeper, Sergio Romero, injured himself while on international duty for Argentina. In defence, Valencia and Young at full-backs. In central defence, Smalling and Bailly would be our strongest pairing though Smalling and Jones have better chemistry together. A midfield three would seem sensible, given Tottenham’s attacking quality, so Matic, Herrera and Pogba. This is most definitely a game in which Pogba cannot afford to ‘disappear’. Up front, Sanchez, Lukaku and Martial would be the most ideal trio though there is still much uncertainty over the latter’s future.