Manchester United are not only in a poor run of form but they’re in the midst of an injury crisis.
Jose Mourinho explained nine players could miss the big game against Liverpool at the weekend leaving the United manager with a big selection dilemma.
Not only has he got injuries to take in to consideration but a number of his key players are also producing well below par performances and arguably don’t deserve their place in the starting XI on Sunday.
Alexis Sanchez and Victor Lindelof will definitely miss the match with long term injuries, while there are doubts over Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Scott McTominay and Diogo Dalot.
Here’s a look at the problem positions for Mourinho ahead of this weekend’s game.
Mourinho currently has two of the four players who have played at right back this season fit to face Liverpool. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are the only pair currently available with doubts over Diogo Dalot and Matteo Darmian.
Late fitness tests could give United a late boost ahead of kick off because the thought of Valencia going up against the pace of Sadio Mane is pretty terrifying. The best option would arguably be if Shaw was passed fit for Young to switch to right back where he has played already this season.
Dalot was named man of the match against Newcastle and impressed but away at Anfield is a totally different matter. The Portuguese admitted in his post match interview it will take him time to properly adapt to the Premier League and throwing him into the lions den at Anfield for his first start in a Premier League away game might be too much of a baptism of fire.
Young’s maturity and experienced could be what United need and he’s more capable of putting a cross in to the box than Valencia. But, it all rests on Shaw being passed fit to start.
The solution to both Mourinho’s left and right back problems is Shaw. If he’s fit he starts and Young switches to right back. If he’s not Young can start at left back.
An easy solution to this problem. Shaw being injured poses a bigger problem at right back than it does at left back.
United have a wealth of midfielders that are fit so injuries aren’t going to affect Mourinho’s selection in the middle of the pitch, it’s more a question of form.
Paul Pogba should be running the show against the likes of Liverpool just as he did in the second half at the Etihad last season. However, he’s been anonymous in his last few displays and failed his audition to start at Anfield with another poor performance against Valencia.
Mourinho’s must make a big decision whether to risk the club’s world record signing in the hope that something clicks and he produces the world class performance everyone knows he’s capable of.
Ander Herrera’s showed the tenacity and fight against Arsenal that’s been lacking in performances of late and a high energy, gutsy performance against Liverpool is exactly what’s needed.
And then there’s the final spot in midfield which won’t cause any problems for Mourinho as his favourite Nemanja Matic will be straight back in the starting XI. He was given a rest for the Champions League game after he was left in Manchester so at least he should be fresh come kick off on Sunday afternoon.
Fred and Andreas Pereira could have given Mourinho food for thought had they performed well at the Mestalla but neither produced performances worthy of getting them back in the starting XI in the Premier League.
Marouane Fellaini’s always favoured in these big games but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him on the bench as Mourinho said after the defeat at the Etihad he likes to have the Belgian as an option to come off the bench.
So, the biggest dilemma Mourinho’s going to have in the middle of the pitch is whether or not to risk playing Pogba from the start.
Similarly to Mourinho’s midfield problems, one of the biggest dilemmas isn’t being caused through injuries, more form. The biggest decision he has to make is whether to start Romelu Lukaku.
Should Anthony Martial be passed fit then the argument based on current form would have to be no.
The Belgian was poor again against Valencia and a pacey front three of Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard would be a far better option than playing Lukaku through the middle.
But, Mourinho’s style, especially in big games would suit Lukaku starting rather than an exciting, fast, attacking front three, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back leading the line at Anfield. No matter how poor he has been in recent weeks.