Three Manchester United players who need to come out firing after winter break

Manchester United return to action tonight after their winter break during which they spent some time training in Spain.

United’s thin squad was starting to show the strain of a long season before the pause.

Hopefully they have used it wisely because the trip to Stamford Bridge kicks off a frantic period of fixtures across three competitions.

We’ve picked out three players who need to come out firing after a much-needed break, starting tonight.

Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Dan James

Compare the exuberant, energetic winger who came off the bench to grab a debut goal against Chelsea in August with the tired, forlorn figure James has been of late.

It’s his first season in the top flight and he has been asked to play almost every game.

Realistically, he should have been eased in and taken out of the side when necessary but he has been forced to play so often because of the thin squad Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left himself with.

James’ workrate cannot be questioned, nor can his enthusiasm. But he just needed a break to get some freshness and return to being the rapid, threatening wideman he showed he can be at the start of the season.

Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Anthony Martial

Much has been made of Martial’s form lately but with Marcus Rashford injured, Solskjaer hasn’t had a great deal of alternatives.

The Frenchman’s energy has been lacking in recent games as he has failed to provide an effective focal point and United haven’t scored in three Premier League games now.

Perhaps Martial just needed a break, and the impending debut of Odion Ighalo may help ease the workload on him.

He could do with a goal and a purposeful performance sooner rather than later after the break.

Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

Harry Maguire

Maguire had been in decent form going into the break but there were the odd occasions when he was turned too easily by pacy strikers.

Perhaps that can be put down to the fact he is playing through a hip injury, and hopefully he has used the break to give that problem a chance to heal.

It seems likely Maguire will keep playing through the pain – which is to be commended in a season where he will have his sights set on Euro 2020 afterwards.

So it’s important he can manage the injury as well as possible because there is still a feeling that there is more to come from Solskjaer’s big-money summer signing.

As United’s captain, attention will fall on him. He needs to lead by example heading into a crucial stretch of fixtures, beginning tonight.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.