Four decisions Manchester United need to make for Arsenal clash
Manchester United have to use their narrow League Cup victory over Rochdale as motivation, even though there are precious few positives for supporters to cling onto.
Because if the uninspiring wins over Astana and Rochdale have taught Ole Gunnar Solskjaer anything, then it’s the fact that some of his selection decisions aren’t cut and dry as they seem, despite recent injury problems. There are fringe players worth considering.
Ed Woodward’s public backing of Solskjaer hasn’t lifted much of the heat off the United boss. He still needs to make some huge decisions to get United firing for their next, enormous, game against Arsenal.
These are the big calls the Norwegian should be mulling over…
Tuanzebe for Lindelof?
Solskjaer’s first-choice defence has been very clear from the season’s outset and that was reinforced when United handed a new contract to Victor Lindelof. It was reward for the Swede’s excellent form last term, but that form has been largely missing in this nascent campaign.
Lindelof and Harry Maguire really ought to compliment each other as a pairing, but the case to include Axel Tuanzebe is growing increasingly compelling.
The 21-year-old has been entirely untroubled in his Europa League and Carabao Cup outings, albeit against lesser opposition. So how he fares against a stronger opponent will be fascinating.
Dropping Lindelof for Tuanzebe would be a huge call at this early stage of the season, but it’s one many fans will be urging Solskjaer to make.
Luke Shaw is most certainly part of United’s strongest back four, although during his injury absence Solskjaer has been happy to field Ashley Young as his replacement. But it’s fair to say the United club captain hasn’t particularly shone.
In Marcos Rojo and Brandon Williams, Solskjaer has two further alternatives who he should at least consider instead of the 34-year-old Young on the left side of United’s defence.
Williams excelled as a substitute in the Rochdale clash, following a promising string of performances in the United Under-23s. Rojo splits opinion among supporters but he’s always willing and can be dangerous on his day.
Solskjaer will most likely stick with Young as the steady option, but Williams could gradually make a case to change the manager’s mind, given more opportunities.
It’s a straightforward fact that United’s best run of form under Solskjaer came when they were playing 4-3-3.
And although there are several factors — a lack of quality in central midfield, the desire to play with a No.10, tweaking Paul Pogba’s position — that have precipitated the shift to 4-2-3-1, perhaps Solskjaer was right all along.
Jose Mourinho also dabbled disastrously with 4-2-3-1, a system in which Pogba is forced into a position where’s he’s most most happy; and one that has meant either Juan Mata or Jesse Lingard playing unconvincingly in the pocket behind the striker.
United need better control of possession and now they’ve got their three best central midfielders (Fred, Pogba and Scott McTominay) all fit, Solskjaer has to decide if they can play together.
The biggest decision for Solskjaer to make, but perhaps the easiest given the circumstances
Marcus Rashford is out and Anthony Martial is doubtful for the Arsenal clash, meaning Greenwood is United’s only fit striker. He may well have started against West Ham on the right last week if it weren’t for about of tonsilitis. Now, he surely will.
He might be only 17, but Greenwood has two goals in his last two games and looks to be one of United’s most reliable forward players, along with Daniel James.
This decision is almost made for Solskjaer already. Even if Martial recovers in time to face the Gunners, Greenwood has proven that he’s ready to make his first Premier League start of the season.
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