Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be forced to make three changes across his back line for tomorrow’s Champions League group F home tie against Spanish side Villareal.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is suspended for the game following his red card against Young Boys and both Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw sustained injuries against Aston Villa on Saturday which make them doubtful for the game.
If both miss out, Victor Lindelof is almost certain to partner Rafa Varane in central defence, with Diogo Dalot at right back and Alex Telles coming in for Shaw at left back. The manager is expected to confirm the status of the doubtful stars at today’s 1.30pm press conference.
What Solskjaer decides to do higher up the pitch will be fascinating. His stubborn determination to stick with his 4-2-3-1 formation with ‘McFred’ – Scott McTominay and Fred – as the defensive midfield duo must finally give way after three defeats out of four games recently.
In fact, only one of those defeats featured the McFred partnership and it was used in United’s only win in that sequence, but with Paul Pogba adrift on the left wing and Jadon Sancho unused, the balance of the team is clearly not right.
This formation would see McTominay as the sole holding midfielder, with Paul Pogba just in front of him and Bruno Fernandes dropping more into the number eight role that made his career at Sporting Lisbon and which, despite Solskjaer’s insistence at playing him as a number 10, is the one tattooed on his arm.
The in-form Mason Greenwood should continue on the right wing, with Sancho being given an opportunity on the left and Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line.
Donny van de Beek is another option if the manager doesn’t fancy Sancho for the game. He would play in central midfield, leaving Pogba wide left.
Despite days of intense criticism from the media and social media, Solskjaer’s job is probably safe for the time being and so it is time for him to show his mettle and take risks.
Whilst he tends to dig in with his trusted lieutenants when his back is against the wall, and will be concerned to drop a defensive midfielder when he is fielding a makeshift back line, he must surely see that change is necessary.
This, then, is our predicted XI for tomorrow’s game: