Eight starters look certain for Manchester United's opening XI of the season

Manchester United’s opening game of the season is less than a fortnight away and new manager Erik ten Hag‘s plans are taking shape.

With four pre-season games played, United fans are getting a good sense of Ten Hag’s preferred players and system.

With what we have learned from pre-season tour so far, we can deduce there are eight locked-in starters for the season opener at Old Trafford against Brighton.

This means three spots are ‘up for grab’s for the fixture. Let’s take a look at the battle for places…

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Eight starters look certain

Ten Hag appears to trust a core group of players already, and with United winning three and drawing one of the pre-season matches so far, his starters have earned the early respect of the new manager.

It’s notable that of these eight starters, none are new signings, which tells its own story of United’s limited transfer activity this summer, and the delayed deals – with only one player featuring during the pre-season tour.

Expected United starters v Brighton

David de Gea is certain to start in goal, while at right-back, Diogo Dalot has started all four of Manchester United’s pre-season games and looked good in doing so, one of the standout players on the tour.

Club captain Harry Maguire is expected to start the opener, it’s his spot to lose. His partner for the match remains a mystery.

Fred has been singled out as a key player in midfield so far by Erik ten Hag and will start. The manager told a press conference last week: “He is playing in the role as connecter, defending to offence. He is playing it quite well, I am satisfied with his performance.”

United’s front four appears nailed-on too. Bruno Fernandes will support a front three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Jadon Sancho.

All four have earned their places during pre-season, and The Mail report Martial will start the season up front even if Cristiano Ronaldo returns.

Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

In contention to start

There are still three places up for grabs. One of these is at left-back, with new signing Tyrell Malacia battling Luke Shaw.

Shaw started three pre-season games and Malacia one, and his experience may give him the edge. Malacia though has looked bright, and could yet pip the England international to a starting berth.

While Harry Maguire seems a certain starter for the opener, this might not always be the case. It could end up a battle to partner new signing Lisandro Martinez.

There’s no certainty Martinez will be ready for the opener, although he could be in contention. Either Martinez, Victor Lindelof, Raphael Varane or Eric Bailly will partner the club captain for the opener. At a guess, we would go for Varane.

Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

The final uncertain spot is who might partner Fred in midfield. For three games in pre-season this was Scott McTominay, and Donny van de Beek in the other.

McTominay missed the final game against Villa with a fitness issue. He should recover fine for the season opener, but his spot isn’t guaranteed.

Van de Beek didn’t seize his chance, but there’s a possibility Christian Eriksen could slot straight in if he makes a strong impression in training this week and next.

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