In the first part of our FIFA simulation, United extended their unbeaten run to 14 games, with an away win over Brighton sandwiched between draws with Tottenham and Bournemouth.
This next part sees United go up against three sides the team failed to beat in their Premier League meetings earlier on in the season.
Aston Villa (A)
Solskjaer needed to make changes after that hugely disappointing home draw with Bournemouth last time out against a Villa side who held United 2-2 at Old Trafford back in December.
Odion Ighalo drops to the bench with Juan Mata coming in on the right, Daniel James switching to the left and Anthony Martial leading the line.
Paul Pogba returns to the squad, presumably looking to build his fitness ahead of a virtual Euro 2020 tournament and a potential summer move.
After a shaky start, United take the initiative in the first half, with Martial and Bruno Fernandes both going close.
On 35 minutes, Solskjaer’s tactical switches come up trumps. A fantastic reverse pass from Bruno finds James coming in off the left flank to fire home. He is firmly back on the goal trail after his strike against LASK last week.
With United in complete control, Solskjaer threw on Pogba on the hour mark – in place of Fred – and he didn’t take long to show his quality.
It was Fernandes once more with the assist, as Pogba rifled in a left-footed screamer from outside the box to make it 2-0, before embarking on one of his trademark dance celebrations.
With another clean sheet – United are yet to concede a goal in four simulated games – an away win and Pogba back with a bang, it could hardly be going much better for Solskjaer.
After Pogba’s sensational goalscoring return, Solskjaer could not resist unleashing him and Fernandes from the off for the visit of a Saints side who held United 1-1 at St Mary’s in August.
Mason Greenwood also replaced Mata on the right.
The first half saw United fail to dominate possession but have the better goalscoring chances, the best of which came when Pogba’s 10th minute shot from a Bruno cross was blocked.
Within seven minutes of the restart, James – just as he did back in August – opened the scoring.
Despite being one of the smallest men on the pitch, he sneaked in at the back post for a header, to make it two in two games.
It was not the best game, or United’s best performance, but it was job done with the only hairy moment coming when Harry Maguire bumped Danny Ings in the box.
A penalty would have been awarded but the former Liverpool man was offside earlier in the move.
Crystal Palace (A)
Palace stunned Old Trafford on August Bank Holiday weekend and Solskjaer named an unchanged side, charged with taking revenge.
The Eagles are just as hard to break down on FIFA as they are in real life under Roy Hodgson and that makes for a turgid first 45 minutes.
Neither side has a shot of any kind with United struggling badly to break down Palace’s deep defence.
It’s much more of the same in the second half; a game so bad as to make you wonder why we miss football quite so much in these days of social isolation.
That’s until Aaron Wan-Bissaka – at the home of his former club – is fouled just outside the box and Fernandes curls home the free kick, which is the only shot on target for either side in the match.
With three wins, Pogba and James amongst the goals, United are setting a pace their top four rivals will struggle to match.
Can they keep it going in the final part, which includes the re-arranged game against fellow Champions League hopefuls Sheffield United?
- David Brooks would be a smart Sancho alternative for Manchester United this summer
- If Manchester United have ruled out permanent Ighalo move, they must focus on Dembele
- Manchester United could see reported target Nuno Mendes as a winger in the long term
- Ethan Galbraith must impress on loan to jump ahead of Levitt and Garner at Manchester United
- Teden Mengi deserves to replace Phil Jones in Manchester United squad