Erik ten Hag’s team selection against Omonia Nicosia on Thursday could reveal a lot about his plans for Manchester United’s next Premier League match against Everton on Sunday.
Had the Manchester derby not descended into a fiasco, he would probably have played a second string side to rest his generals for the bigger game.
However, a number of poor performances on Sunday could have opened the door for other stars to stake their claim, with match fitness also an issue.
David de Gea could be rested for the game as he could have a bad back from bending down to picking six balls out of his net. Martin Dubravka, if fit, could finally get to make his debut in goal.
Despite Diogo Dalot’s torrid time in the derby, we imagine Ten Hag will keep faith with him on Sunday because he does not seem to fancy United’s other right back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Either way, Wan-Bissaka is likely to start, either to rest Dalot or gain match fitness himself.
The centre back pairing will largely depend on Harry Maguire’s recovery from injury as Raphael Varane is likely to be rested even if he has shaken off the knock that saw him limp off on Sunday. Lisandro Martinez will surely be rested too, so if Maguire doesn’t make it, United are short of a centre back and Luke Shaw could be played in that role.
Shaw is knocking at the door for a recall after Tyrell Malacia’s naïve performance against City, so he will probably be selected come what may to get match fitness. If he’s at centre back, Malacia will get the left back berth again as he only played 45 minutes on Sunday.
In central midfield, Casemiro is almost certain to replace Scott McTominay, with many believing this will be the start of a run of games in the holding midfield role for the Brazilian. He could be aided in midfield by Fred, with Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen likely to be rested.
Up front, both Anthony Martial and Cristiano Ronaldo need minutes so Ten Hag could go for a 4-4-2, with both up top.
This leaves the wings and we suspect that Jadon Sancho and Antony will be pressed into action again. The pair have received a lot of public criticism from the likes of Paul Scholes and Arsene Wenger for their failure to track back and help out their full backs. Ten Hag may therefore send them out for the extra game with a flea in their ear and an expectation that they work harder.
With Martial now available again, there are three wingers – Sancho, Rashford and Antony – fighting for two places so whoever performs worse of the two could make way on Sunday. Anthony Elanga and Facundo Pellistri are other options, so if they are picked, it could even mean that both Sancho and Antony are dropped on Sunday and that one or the other of the pretenders has a chance of playing.
We also expect to see a number of youngsters coming off the bench on the hour mark if all is going well, so Elanga and/or Pellistri could be joined by the likes of Zidane Iqbal, Isak Hansen-Aaroen, Ethan Laird and/or Charlie McNeill.
With all that in mind, here is our predicted starting XI for Thursday’s tie in Cyprus:
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