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How Injury-Hit Manchester United Should Line Up Against Arsenal

SWANSEA, WALES - NOVEMBER 06: : Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2nd l) of Manchester United celebrates scoring his sides second goal with Phil Jones (l) during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Manchester United’s clash against Arsenal on Saturday already looks like it will have a massive impact on the rest of of their season.

If they win, it will go some way towards getting their rather shaky campaign back on track – if they lose, however, they risk losing further ground on the top of the Premier League and at that stage they would have collected just two points (assuming they even draw) in their matches against the Gunners, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.

It’s a match that José Mourinho dare not lose, but he has a bit of a problem. His side has a number of injury concerns going into the Old Trafford clash – with reports this week claiming that as many as seven players could be out – and another makeshift starting eleven could be on the cards.

With that in mind, how should Mourinho line up against his most bitter foe Arsene Wenger this weekend?

 

Goalkeeper:

David De Gea

goalkeeper David de Gea of Manchester United FCuring the UEFA Europa Leaguegroup A match between Fenerbahce and Manchester United on November 3, 2016 at the Sukru Saracoglu stadium in Istanbul, Turkey(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

No explanation necessary.

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Defenders:

Right-Back: Matteo Darmian

SWANSEA, WALES - NOVEMBER 06: (L-R) Matteo Darmian of Manchester City against Modou Barrow of Swansea City during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at The Liberty Stadium on November 06, 2016 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Centre-Back: Phil Jones

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City and Phil Jones of Manchester United compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford on December 19, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Centre-Back: Daley Blind

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Daley Blind of Manchester United in action during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on September 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Left-Back: Luke Shaw

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Jesus Navas of Manchester City (L) attempts to cross the ball while Luke Shaw of Manchester United (R) attempts to block  during the EFL Cup fourth round match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on October 26, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

In their last outing against Swansea, Manchester United played a backline of Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick and Matteo Darmian – it didn’t cost them at the Liberty Stadium but Arsenal’s attack could eat that alive.

The first-choice of Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling will both miss out, so it’s contingency plan time. In other circumstances Luke Shaw wouldn’t be risked (as his fitness is still an issue), but short of moving Darmian to left-back again and playing one of Young or Timothy Fosu-Mensah on the right, Mourinho doesn’t have a lot of options as Blind is needed in the centre.

To that end, Blind and Phil Jones is probably the best pairing Man United could put out (with Marcos Rojo very much on the bench), and while there were media murmurings that Antonio Valencia could return at right-back but that would be a massive risk.

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Midfielders:

Defensive Midfield: Michael Carrick

SWANSEA, WALES - NOVEMBER 06:  United player Michael Carrick in action during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Centre-Midfield: Paul Pogba

SWANSEA, WALES - NOVEMBER 06: Paul Pogba of Manchester United holds off Ki Sung-Yueng of Swansea City during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Centre-Midfield: Ander Herrera

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Ander Herrera of Manchester United moves away from Fernando during the EFL Cup Fourth Round match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on October 26, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Marouane Fellaini is a serious doubt for the game (though he may not have started anyway), but Man United’s midfield is one of the few areas not to be affected by the various injuries and suspension.

Herrera and Pogba return from the international break unscathed so seems almost certain they will play, with the former returning from suspension, but the third midfielder could be an interesting one. At is it a home fixture, Mourinho would probably be expected to play a number ten (i.e. one of Juan Mata or Wayne Rooney) but in a side that likes to dictate the tempo from midfield as much as Arsenal do, it might be worth deploying Michael Carrick in there.

In any event, Rooney faces a race to even be fit for the game having withdrawn from the England squad earlier this week.

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Forwards:

Right-Wing: Juan Mata

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Dean Marney of Burnley (L) attempts to catch Juan Mata of Manchester United (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford on October 29, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Left-Wing: Anthony Martial

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 03:  Anthony Martial of Manchester United reacts during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Fenerbahce SK and Manchester United FC at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium on November 3, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Striker: Marcus Rashford

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United (R) takes the ball past Matthew Lowton of Burnley (L) during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford on October 29, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The inclination here would be to start Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right for this fixture, but Mourinho is unlikely to and nor should he.

That’s not to suggest that the Armenian international should’t be in this team going forward – he unquestionably should – but the last time he was dropped into the starting lineup for a match of this magnitude was the Manchester derby, where he was hauled off at half time and hasn’t played in the league in the two months since.

His failure to adapt to the Premier League immediately against Man City made him a scapegoat in Mourinho’s eyes – he needs to be deployed in a much less high-profile match to get his bearings properly in England. It’s the manager’s fault that Mkhitaryan isn’t ready for this match, not the player’s.

That being said, by all means have him in reserve as an impact sub to exploit tired Arsenal legs towards the end of the match.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s suspension will surely allow for Rashford to get his chance up front – Mourinho has a choice between the promising striker or a half-fit Wayne Rooney to lead the line. Logic would suggest that Rashford will start (and he should), but that’s no guarantee that José will go with the logical choice.

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Author: The PA Team

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