Michael Carrick will pick the Manchester United side for tonight’s crucial Champions League Group F game against Villarreal in Spain.
Following Sunday’s sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Carrick has been put in temporary charge but said at yesterday’s presser that he has ‘very similar beliefs’ to Solskjaer, hinting that there would not be a massive overhaul of the starting XI or the tactics.
However, Carrick also said he had his ‘own personality’ so we expect some tweaks to the side that has performed so badly in recent weeks.
In defence, this could mean that Diogo Dalot gets a start ahead of the struggling Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back. Luke Shaw left the field at Vicarage Road with concussion on Saturday so could be replaced by Alex Telles on the other flank.
There is also a shout for bringing Eric Bailly in for the ailing Harry Maguire, but given Carrick’s comments about having a similar outlook to his predecessor, we think this is unlikely.
It’s possible that the midfield will be the area that gets the biggest overhaul under Carrick, given that was his own position as a player. Donny van de Beek must surely start, especially after his excellent 45 minutes against Watford – despite the chaos around him.
Bruno Fernandes could finally be brought back into the number eight role that made his name at Sporting, and then one of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay or Fred would up a midfield three.
Although a holding midfielder is required and Fred is the least defensive of the three, he could be favourite given his excellent recent form for Brazil.
This would leave a front three that would be spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo. Mason Greenwood has Covid and Edinson Cavani is struggling with a tendon problem, so it will probably come down to a choice of Jadon Sancho, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford for the two wing spots, although Anthony Martial will also be in the frame.
Rashford will more than likely take the left wing berth and it is possible that Lingard will be given a chance on the right. Sancho has been showing flashes of getting in his stride at United but Lingard has a point to prove and will also offer more help defensively.
A win for United tonight will see them qualify for the knockout stages no matter what happens in other games due to their head-to-head record over the Spanish side.
With all that in mind, here is our predicted XI for the match: