Manchester United will have to face their noisy neighbours without their best player; so, how will Jose Mourinho solve his midfield issue?
United have lined up with three at the back in each of their last three games but one wonders if it is the right fit for a home game against Manchester City. Surely it will be a case for playing a back four; and so, in that case, with Eric Bailly ruled out, the impressive Victor Lindelof should be partnered by the more reliable of the remaining centre-halves, Marcos Rojo.
Luke Shaw impressed against CSKA Moscow but played the full game, so Ashley Young will most certainly continue at left back.
“He’s injured but will play,” Mourinho said about Nemanja Matic. Therefore the only question marks remain over his partners. Ander Herrera was brought off early enough for it to constitute protecting him for Sunday and our thinking is that the manager should go back to his plans for Eden Hazard from April’s game against Chelsea. Herrera has been out of form but form doesn’t really come into concentration; the Spaniard should be deployed to shadow Kevin De Bruyne, and who knows, a good job could do him the world of good.
In an ideal world, Marouane Fellaini will be the man selected to play alongside the two in a midfield three. It’s a spoiler midfield for sure but with United’s front three and pace from wide, it may be the best option.
Jesse Lingard’s worst performance for the club came arguably in this fixture last season. Fast forward 15 months and we may well have one of the finest turnarounds – Lingard has earned his starting place and with a more defined role than he had last season, surely stands a better chance of impressing. Romelu Lukaku’s goal against Moscow may well boost his confidence but his all-round play in United’s last two league games protects his place as a starter despite Mourinho’s oddly positive affirmation about Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s chances of playing at the weekend. Will the Swede be a surprise selection? On the left, Anthony Martial looks set to be given the nod after the alternate rotation between him and Rashford in Europe.
The game will surely be won and lost in the midfield, with United’s main absentee the most influential factor. The home side do still have a chance of winning, but in order to do so Mourinho would surely be better placed to remember his side’s strengths rather than trying to replace Pogba as he did in recent games.