Predicting United's 20-man squad for first fixture, who is in and who is out?
Manchester United’s near fully fit squad means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is going to have to disappoint a few players this Friday when the Premier League returns.
Even with an increased substitutes bench of nine, United cannot fit all of our available players into the 20-man matchday squad.
We have had a go at predicting how the team will line up, and which XI Solskjaer may go with.
So now we will attempt to work out who will, and who will not make the 20-man squad.
The following players should all be guaranteed a place in United’s squad, barring any late setbacks.
David de Gea, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Brandon Williams, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Nemanja Matic, Fred, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial.
That is 13 players, then add in a substitute goalkeeper who will be Sergio Romero, and you have 14, and then six places up for grabs.
We would say Eric Bailly is the closest on this list to not being a guarantee. He is in our predicted XI if we go three at the back, but you also never quite know with him.
Battling for places
So with Bailly in too, that is 15 players, leaving just five left. And there are a lot of players remaining:
Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot, Teden Mengi, James Garner, Andreas Pereira, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong, Dan James, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Odion Ighalo, Mason Greenwood. 13 players competing for five substitute places.
There may also be an option for Solskjaer to select two substitute goalkeepers ‘just in case’, with Nathan Bishop and Lee Grant.
So who is out?
Phil Jones has been ruled out with injury, so he was not included on the list above. Grant and Bishop are probably unlikely to make the bench, although one will travel with the squad as a precaution.
Of the players battling for a bench place, Mason Greenwood, Dan James and Odion Ighalo are near guarantees to be involved. United need attacking options.
That leaves just two places remaining. We are going to tip a combination of Andreas Pereira, a reward for his two goal friendly display, and veteran star Juan Mata.
This means Tuanzebe, Dalot, Mengi, Garner, Gomes, Chong, and Lingard could all fail to make the squad.
The diversity of options really highlights United’s quality squad depth, and the difficulties for Solskjaer in keeping his players happy.
Predicted 20-man squad: David de Gea, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Brandon Williams, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Nemanja Matic, Fred, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Dan James, Eric Bailly, Odion Ighalo, Sergio Romero, Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Mason Greenwood.
Out: Nathan Bishop, Lee Grant, Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Jesse Lingard, James Garner, Teden Mengi.
Squad depth will be key
The next few weeks will see a condensed fixture list, with United playing three matches in an eight-day span after the Tottenham match; Tuesday, Saturday and the following Tuesday, two of which are away fixtures.
This means the 20-man squad which is selected against Tottenham, won’t be the same as it is against Sheffield United, and then Norwich, and then Brighton, and so on.
Injuries and fitness struggles will become a key factor, especially with players being asked to play a packed schedule of high intensity games, having had three months off.
Young players like Tahith Chong and Axel Tuanzebe will get their opportunities to shine eventually, and if they take them, they can give Solskjaer a good selection headache.
The players who do not make the squad this week may be frustrated or disappointed, that’s natural, but they must stay patient, and be ready.
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