How will Manchester United line up this weekend - and how should they?



Dismal pre-season form cannot be carried into the opening day for Manchester United. Jose Mourinho will be pushed by players and fans alike to play more direct and more attacking football, but who will and who should get into his first team squad this Friday? Oli Gent explains more....

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They’ve had a nightmare pre-season, with the 19-point hangover still fresh and rotting in the memory.

Mourinho continues to make excuses and sulk, and on the field his side have been lacklustre, with tiresome draws against Club America and San Jose, a fluky penalty victory over a poor Milan, and a 4-1 hiding at the hands of bitter rivals Liverpool summing it all up.

Throw in the off-field problems with Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial on top of the centre-back crises, and all hell breaks loose at Old Trafford.

Video - Crisis point: How everything is going wrong for Jose Mourinho


It is not a happy time to be a Red Devil right now.



Mourinho was forced into a tactical switch after Paul Pogba’s complaints went publicly viral, and United’s performances slightly improved after the switch from the boring 4-2-3-1 that Mourinho insisted on for three quarters of the season.

He has signed Brazilian Fred to be the box-to-boxer while Nemanja Matic sits and shields the defence, giving Pogba the license to drift forward and affect the game in the final third with his direct running and his ability to do the unexpected.

On the flanks of defence captain Antonio Valencia will continue to be first-choice despite the arrival of teenager Diogo Dalot, who will sit out the start of the season nursing an injury, and it seems as though Ashley Young will be first choice left-back despite Mourinho’s promises to Luke Shaw that he will get a look-in this term.

Romeu Lukaku will be the lone man up top again but will get more support from Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez operating behind him, as well as Pogba charging forward from midfield and Fred offering an energetic hand when his carrilero duties allow.

However, if Lukaku isn’t physically fit enough for the start of the new season, it should be up to Marcus Rashford to lead the line for United, but it would seem unlikely due to the admiration Lukaku has from his gaffer.



Despite the complaints from manager and fans alike, there is still a lot to work with for Mourinho and his new 4-3-2-1.

They have undoubtedly the best goalkeeper in the world, even if he did had a poor World Cup. This most definitely helps when taking the entire defence into account.

At centre-back, he stills awaits news on Harry Maguire, Yerry Mina, Jerome Boateng and Toby Alderweireld, but those deals slowly but surely are starting to die and slip through his fingers. Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling are a reliable partnership that are quick on their feet, good in the air and strong in the tackle, and Mourinho cannot ignore that fact that they both play well together.

Maguire is the main target, with United rumoured to be willing to break the world-record transfer fee of £75 million to seal the Yorkshireman's signature.

However, the other three names are still being banded about and we are still clueless as to who United will have to pair Eric Bailly with this Friday. It is impossible to dismiss the fabulous qualities of the three differing targets, with all known for being good on the ball, in the air and in the tackle.

Boateng, a controversial name with previous experience on the blue side of Manchester, would give the entire dressing room a lift if someone of his calibre arrived, but there have been recent reports of Mourinho receiving a direct no from Boateng himself in a late-night telephone call. The rumours continue.

Luke Shaw would come in at left back, as you need a natural left-footer there, and a start in the first game of the season would bolster his confidence with the rest of the season ahead. He and Valencia would offer width on the flanks, overlapping the midfield trio and whipping crosses in towards Lukaku.

In midfield, United are light, weight-wise. Fred is a smart signing due to his energy and defensive ability combined with his eye for a pass, but his height and small stature could cause him problems when coming up against the most physical of midfields, despite his aggressive style of play.

It is different for Silva and De Bruyne at City because they always have the ball, and they’re constantly moving because Guardiola demands a high tempo. But with Mourinho’s side, it’d be different due to the tortoise pace that they usually attack at, which allows sides to get at them and press them hard.

That is why they still need one more physical presence to really complete their midfield trio, and that man would be Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who had a quiet World Cup but will become a hell of a player if Lazio keep hold of him.

Serbian Milinkovic-Savic has been a long-term target for Manchester UnitedGetty Images

A stalwart in the air, in the tackle and with his energy, the Serb would slot marvellously into the midfield three - he truly is a proper Mourinho player.

All three midfielders are physical and good in the air to aid the defence at set pieces and against more direct sides, as well as having eyes for goal and a pass to give them the creative edge,

More fluidity in the attacking phases would allow Martial and Sanchez to drift inside and look for a shot or a key pass, while Lukaku would be the roaming target man, creating space for the onrushing four to exploit in behind him.

This article was written by cool news network.



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