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Manchester United are back in Premier League action on Thursday night as they welcome Chelsea to Old Trafford. Ralf Rangnick’s side still have a mathematical chance of a top-four finish this season, but know victory tonight is crucial in order to do that.
United are unbeaten in their last eight home league games against Chelsea (W3 D5), keeping five clean sheets in that run since a 1-0 loss in May 2013.
In terms of early team news, Fred Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Luke Shaw all remain sidelined while Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire will also miss the match.
Here is how MEN writers think United should line up.
David de Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo are the only United players not starting by default.
Alex Telles has been an atrocious signing and so has Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Alvaro Fernandez is overdue a first-team squad call-up and he merits a start, given the way the senior full-backs have been performing. Raphael Varane was poor for Arsenal’s first goal but Harry Maguire is ruled out and should not be immediately recalled anyway.
Nemanja Matic has to continue. Bruno Fernandes should have been dropped at Arsenal, where he was abysmal again. Hannibal Mejbri deserves a full debut.
Anthony Elanga and Marcus Rashford seem to have been starting every other game and Rangnick has not got a tune out of either of them but Rashford starts as Jadon Sancho is out. Alejandro Garnacho can also come in.
If United had to select a line up on merit then they’d struggle to fill a five-a-side team based on current form. De Gea deserves to play in goal, but his back line might as well be a tombola given there is no guaranteed formula for success.
With options limited it seems certain we’ll seen Matic and McTominay in midfield against an impressive Chelsea side, and their leg work might well hold the key to revitalising Fernandes after an awful run of form.
Ronaldo remains undroppable, though wing selections are limited. Hannibal and Garnacho both deserve bench roles but throwing them into a match like this from the start might be a risky strategy.
There are opportunities in the final weeks of the season for youngsters to get minutes for United, but that should be against Brentford, Brighton and Crystal Palace rather than Chelsea, given the standard of opposition.
Full-back is a disaster at the moment. Wan-Bissaka and Dalot should probably both start given how poor Telles continues to be. Lindelof and Varane hardly covered themselves in glory at the weekend but Maguire is now injured so they have to continue in the side.
There seems little point in playing Matic now we know he’s leaving. Instead, McTominay can have a run of games as a sole holding midfielder, having looked decent in that role in January. Ten Hag will favour that formation so it will benefit McTominay to be tested against an elite side, playing in a progressive midfield with Fernandes and Lingard ahead of him.
Garnacho should be saved for easier opposition to the attack picks itself. Ronaldo produced one of his most complete performances of the season at Arsenal and Elanga was lively. Rashford can come in for Sancho.
After the Arsenal defeat at the weekend, McTominay claimed United have ‘pride’ to play for across their remaining four games of the season, but it seems likely even that will be beyond most members of this gutless playing squad.
While Rangnick might be tempted to throw the youngsters into the line up, United need to make sure of Europa League qualification and selecting them in a game like this might be inadvisable – there should be opportunities in the coming weeks instead.
Lindelof and Varane can keep their places in central defence, despite the latter underperforming at Arsenal. Telles was awful again at the Emirates and he should move to the bench, which means Fernandez should make his senior debut.
Matic should alongside McTominay and Fernandes in a three-man midfield. Sancho is unavailable for this match and that means Rashford can start by default, albeit that’s what most starting players at United are doing these days. It would be smart to involve Garnacho from off the bench in the latter stages of the contest.
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