Jose Mourinho, made eight changes from the side he fielded against Manchester City against Feyenoord in the Europa League on Thursday, giving various fringe players a chance to impress, and it came back to haunt him.
While the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Chris Smalling – both making their first starts of the season – impressed, such a monumental change to side precipitated a dogged, unsure display in Rotterdam.
With the gloomy prospect of three straight defeats now ominously looming over Mourinho’s head, the 53-year-old simply cannot afford any selection mishaps for Manchester United’s game with Watford on Sunday.
With the disaster against Feyenoord in mind, here are three players that Mourinho must field at Vicarage Road this weekend.
The big Swede, with four goals to his name so far, tops the Premier League goalscoring charts, level with Diego Costa and Michail Antonio. Against a physically imposing – but far from fallible – Watford defence, Ibrahimovic’s power and superb hold-up play will carve out chances.
The 34-year-old thrives off pressure and adversity, making his inclusion on Sunday – a must win game – simply paramount. A Zlatan masterclass, similar to his performance against Southampton, is exactly what Man United need after a turbulent week.
The Englishman, unable to break the indomitable partnership of Daley Blind and Eric Bailly in the Premier League this season, made a storming start to life under Mourinho. From the outset, Smalling marshalled United’s back-line, invoking aggression and stature.
With question marks looming over Bailly’s readiness for the clash with Watford (the Ivorian picked up a nasty knock in the first half against Feyenoord), Smalling – a standout performer in the corresponding fixture last season – merits an inclusion on Sunday.
Marcos Rojo‘s woeful display on Thursday night highlighted a couple of things: that, firstly, Mourinho loaned out the wrong left-back to Wolverhampton Wanders; and, secondly, that Shaw’s presence in United’s starting XI is crucial.
The Argentine failed to provide any width or security on the left flank, leading to Feyenoord’s breakaway goal after 71 minutes. Shaw, on the other hand, has been practically faultless at right back this season, offering power and discipline on the left hand side, acting as a crucial element of Mourinho’s system.
In what promises to be a furiously-paced game, Shaw’s reintroduction on Sunday is vital.