One of Manchester United’s tricky selection decisions for the opening game of the Premier League season against Leeds is in central midfield.
Last season the duo of Fred and Scott McTominay started both games against the Whites.
But the pair are both behind in preparation for the new season, with Fred having under a fortnight’s training and just 45 minutes of game time, while McTominay has also had just one half of football and is carrying a minor injury.
Paul Pogba has likewise played just 45 minutes in a friendly, leaving Donny van de Beek, Nemanja Matic, Andreas Pereira and James Garner as the Manchester United midfielders with most minutes fitness-wise.
Matic and Van de Beek got the nod to start against Everton last weekend in a 4-0 victory.
Former United defender Wes Brown, who started the Champions League final in 2008 and also won a medal in 1999, says he believes Nemanja Matic proved his quality against Everton and should start.
Brown told the club website: “I think Matic has got himself in the side with how good he was [against Everton], he was quick at passing, passing forward. I think everyone understands what this Leeds team are going to do. They’re a decent team but they’re very physical.”
Ready to start
Matic, 33, has featured in all four of Manchester United’s pre-season matches, and so has an edge on his teammates.
The midfielder was pictured running and preparing for pre-season in his native Serbia back in June, showing his determination to return for the new campaign in top shape. All this work could pay off.
The point Brown makes is that Matic’s selection would be about more than just fitness, it is his sharpness and quality on the ball which can provide a difference.
A lot of the criticism directed at Scott McTominay and Fred, fair or not, is that United are not direct enough with the two players in the side. Matic’s desire to pass forward, highlighted against Brown, could aid United especially against Leeds.
Last season United profited against Leeds on the counter attack, and a direct, quick transitioning midfield could be key to getting all three points on Saturday.
Nobody is expecting a repeat of the 6-2 win, in which United were two goals up after three minutes, but there are high expectations for the team to win all three points, while factoring in respect for the quality of Marcelo Bielsa’s side. Leeds will push United hard and they are capable of springing an upset. Even so, anything less than three points for United will be a big disappointment on opening weekend.
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