Jose Mourinho may feel tempted to hand a rest to a several key players for Saturday’s game against Stoke City with their opening Champions League clash with FC Basel coming just three days later.
But the psychological value of winning this game is enormous: Manchester United’s Premier League campaign quickly capitulated after winning three games on the bounce following the international break last season.
Needless to say, Mourinho simply cannot afford the same fate; winning four games in a row, ahead of a busy month, would really start to turn a few heads.
And with that in mind, here is Mourinho’s strongest possible line-up ahead of the visit to Mark Hughes’ Stoke next weekend.
For all of the attacking impetus shown so far this season, the key to success next Saturday lies at the back. Eric Bailly and Phil Jones – both suspended for the Basel clash – have been in irresistible form so far this season and Mourinho will count on them to provide a solid platform. Matteo Darmian, who displayed his crossing ability against Spain on Saturday night, should come in for Daley Blind at left back.
And Mourinho will have no reason to leave out any of the attacking four that have primarily featured so far this season – especially Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who already has five assists this season. The message will be clear: get the ball to his feed and run into space.