Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come under immense fire for his side’s recent performances and is known to stick by a number of trusted lieutenants when selecting his line-ups.
The likes of Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Fred and Marcus Rashford are normally engraved permanently into the teamsheet, while other such as Donny van de Beek, Jadon Sancho, Eric Bailly and Jesse Lingard barely get a look-in.
We asked members of The Peoples Person team to reveal what their starting XI would be on Saturday if they were United manager. This is Red Billy’s selection.
Goalkeeper: David de Gea. I am going to stick with Dave for now after his brilliant recent form but it hasn’t escaped my attention that a couple of gaffes have been creeping back into his game, including that near post soft Bernado Silva goal against City. De Gea will always be probably the best shot stopper United have ever had, but the rest of his game, in particular his inability to come off his line, is probably second best to that of Dean Henderson in most aspects.
Defence: Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Alex Telles. Dalot is not the finished article, it is true, but then I would argue neither is Wan-Bissaka. He has arguably gone backwards since last season and his positional discipline is poor. He offers little going forward whereas Dalot is strong in that area. So I would give the Portuguese a run to see if he can grow into the role.
At centre-back, there’s not much choice with Varane injured, Harry Maguire in horrible form and Axel Tuanzebe out on loan at Villa. On last season’s form I’d have been tempted to throw Teden Mengi in, but he has also been inconsistent for the Under 23’s this term. So I’m going to go for Victor and Eric as the least of several evils right now.
On the left side of defence, Luke Shaw has been poor and looks out of condition again so why not give Telles a run? He will make some errors defensively but so has Shaw, and the Brazilian is superb offensively. If he can get a run and recapture his FC Porto form, he will be a breath of fresh air.
Midfield: Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes. Matic remains United’s only natural holding midfielder and so for a 4-3-3 he is really Hobson’s choice. Then, with Pogba out, it has to be time to let Donny off the leash and for him to show what he can do somewhere between a number six and number eight. It is slightly more defensive than his ideal position but he has plenty of experience there and has said recently that it is his preferred role. I am a huge fan of the Dutchman and it beggars belief as to why Solskjaer has held him back when he is probably United’s best central midfielder.
In my 4-3-3 I’m pushing Bruno back deeper than Solskjaer plays him into his favourite number eight role. This will allow him to get on the ball more, help out more defensively and also make those superb Bryan Robson-esque runs from deep into the box that were his trademark at Sporting. I think United will get even more out of Bruno in this way.
Forwards: Mason Greenwood, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho. It’s hard to leave Marcus Rashford out and I would definitely rotate him back in for future games, but United have to start using Sancho. I have written before that I believe Solskjaer has mis-used Jadon, pinning him on the wing where at Borussia Dortmund he was allowed to roam across the front line.
Mason is two-footed and a natural striker so there is equally little reason to deny him freedom to move around in a more fluid system. Ronaldo, too, can play right across the front line so I would put these three together and tell them, switch sides, switch in and out of the centre, make yourselves impossible to man mark and show me a heat map that is so varied it’s impossible to know what your starting position was.
I’m under no illusions that my team would concede some goals, but it would surely score more than it concedes and it would certainly be entertaining to watch.
Here’s Red Billy’s side: