Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho could be set to make his biggest team selection decision yet since he became the manager at Old Trafford, on Monday at Anfield.
Mourinho’s tactical reputation goes before him and it was one such masterclass when he picked a below-strength Chelsea team in 2014 which won at Liverpool (Reds may remember this game for a certain slip by Steven Gerrard).
With the return of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, though, Mourinho faces arguably his toughest call yet as United manager.
Juan Mata has been in-form and there are even rumours that the Spaniard could get a new contract, but it would appear that his place is the one at threat should the Armenian signing from Borussia Dortmund be picked.
It is arguably not Mata’s form – or any other player, for that matter – which is likely to be prominent in the manager’s mind, however. Mourinho will still be stinging from his selection mistakes in the Manchester derby which influenced the result. Jesse Lingard and Mkhitaryan were the two players identified as poorest on the day as City dominated the first half last month.
Considering that Anthony Martial came off the bench to score his first goal of the season against Stoke City, it is a good sign that his confidence is on the rise. So it may be reasonable to assume that the Frenchman will take his place on the left, with Marcus Rashford on the right, Mata in the number ten role and Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front.
If Mkhitaryan doesn’t start, he may consider it a huge blow; a player who has openly confessed he found his initial adjustment period after moving to Germany from Shakhtar to be difficult.
However it should be worth remembering that he made a telling impact as a substitute at Hull, and while he wasn’t involved in the goal, his contribution in giving the Hull side an extra headache was surely influential. Michael Pieri previewed the game for UnitedInFocus and believes it could end in a draw – Mourinho’s new signing may be just the player to provide the breakthrough in what is sure to be a tough game. Whether or not the manager has the confidence in his new man to do that? Well, that could tell us a lot about how he sees his team shaping up.