The international break has finally come to an end and Premier League football returns to grace our screens once more. Manchester United return to action against Watford at home later today, and will be looking to get back to winning ways.
This week has been one of mixed emotions at United. The club went into the two-week long break on the back of two consecutive defeats at the hands of Arsenal in the Premier League and Wolves in the FA Cup. A number of the club’s key players were called up to represent their respective national sides, but several pulled out of their squads at the last moment causing United a scare at this crucial late stage of the season. After all the sunshine and rainbows that has been the last three months, it certainly has been a testing few weeks at Old Trafford.
However, the reason for all the joy surrounding the club in the first place, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, attempted to lift spirits once more. After a magnificent run of 14 wins in 19 games, the club finally confirmed him as their permanent manager. His first task since the announcement though, will be to get his side back on track in the race for a top four spot. So what will the team he puts out against Watford look like? This is our guess:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
Did not have the best of international breaks. Started the 2-1 win over Norway but once again failed to stop a penalty. Dropped for Kepa against Malta. His games for Spain have no relevance to his games for United though.
The Spaniard remains immensely important to the club and will be crucial in their Champions League qualification bid. Must be on his best form against Troy Deeney who will certainly test him.
Defenders: Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Ashley Young
Defense is the area that has provided the biggest scare for United over the last couple of weeks. The two main center backs, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof have both been excluded from the squad to face the Hornets. Bailly picked up a head injury while playing for the Ivory Coast. Lindelof pulled out of the Sweden squad to be with his wife for the birth of their child and will be given another week off. In their place, the Chris Smalling and Phil Jones partnership that United fans have grown so used to seeing over the years will return.
Luke Shaw pulled out of the England squad and faces a late fitness test for this game. He is in the squad though, and might just start. Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia continue to miss out through injury. Diogo Dalot is fit and ready to play but is unlikely to be preferred over Ashley Young.
Midfielders: Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba
Not many changes in this department. Solskjaer’s preferred midfield trio are all fit once more and are likely to start. Both Matic and Herrera were not called up to their national teams. Paul Pogba starred for France, grabbing an assist in the 4-1 trashing of Moldova and will play a part against Watford again.
Forwards: Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard
The forward line is where selection might prove to be a bit tricky for Solskjaer. All of United’s front men pulled out of their national squads citing injuries. Martial and Rashford’s withdrawals are said to be more on the precautionary side.
Lingard though, spoke to Gareth Southgate saying he was not ready to play in the FA Cup defeat to Wolves but did so due to the lack of options up front and was not called up for England as a result. He spent the rest of the break doing some warm weather training in Dubai and should be ready for Watford.
Romelu Lukaku remains a doubt with an ankle injury that kept him out of both of Belgium’s matches. Hence, a front three of Martial, Rashford and Lingard looks most likely at the moment.
The full squad according to Manchester Evening News:
David de Gea, Sergio Romero, Lee Grant, Diogo Dalot, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Fred, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford.