Manchester United’s fixtures for the 2021/22 season have been announced.
United kick off with a fixture at home to old rivals Leeds United. This was a game United won 6-2 last season, although it probably won’t be as easy this time around.
The last meeting between the two teams in April ended 0-0 and United will need to start faster this season than last.
United lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace at home last season, although did begin the 2019/20 season with a 4-0 home victory against Chelsea.
It is way too early to accurately predict how Manchester United will line up against Leeds on August 14 (note: the date could even be changed to the 15th for TV).
But we are going to give it a go, and look ahead to how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might line his team up…
A debut, and more factors to consider…
There is so much up in the air right now for United, with regard to transfers, with who arrives and who leaves.
This game could see a debut for Jadon Sancho, who we expect to have finally signed by time the fixture comes around.
The extra factor to bear in mind for this opening Premier League fixture is fitness. Leeds are one of the hardest working teams in the league and United need to select players who are fully fit and rested.
This was one of the problems last season against Crystal Palace when a barely rested United side were beaten, with players lacking sharpness.
It is also important to consider the manner of United’s 6-2 win over Leeds last season. Solskjaer may look to repeat a few tricks.
Let’s take a look at our predicted XI below, which will not be United’s strongest line-up available from the squad selected, but the one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may be most tempted to go with, and see our explanation afterwards…
Breaking down the predicted XI
Goalkeeper: This is a tough one obviously, but it has felt for a year now that Solskjaer has been leaning towards Dean Henderson taking over from David de Gea. This fixture will be the game to confirm this.
Defence: Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire are certainties. With no clear direction in the transfer market at centre-back, expect Victor Lindelof to at least begin the season in the line-up.
We are going for Alex Telles over Luke Shaw at left-back because the Brazilian will have had all summer to rest, a pre-season to impress, while Shaw has been at Euro 2020. Telles could get to stake his claim early.
Midfield: We would love to say United have a brand new defensive midfielder ready to start alongside Paul Pogba, but its unclear if the club share these plans, and even if the Frenchman wants to stay.
In any event, Pogba may not be rushed into start the season especially if France go far and win Euro 2020. Solskjaer has trust in Fred and Scott McTominay, who both dominated Leeds in the home fixture last season and he will want the two industrious players against a competitive away side.
Even if Portugal go far at the Euros, expect Bruno Fernandes to start the first game of the season. He is United’s talisman and won’t be rested.
Front three: Now it begins to get exciting, with potential new signing Jadon Sancho making his first start.
With Edinson Cavani at the Copa America, United may not want to push him too early, and a fully rested up Mason Greenwood could get his chance to start up front. Anthony Martial will also be competing but Greenwood should get the nod.
On the left Dan James’ selection is reflective of two things. Firstly his impressive performance at home to Leeds last season which caused Marcelo Bielsa’s side tactical problems.
Secondly this is because Marcus Rashford should be held back at the start of the season and may even need an operation.
Another option, which if not for the Leeds factor and James’ performance last season, would be Sancho on the left, Martial up front, and Greenwood on the right.
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