Manchester United visit the capital for the first time this season tomorrow to face an Arsenal side who sit just one point above them in the league. The Saturday evening kick-off is being billed as a crucial game for either side and a win would really help kick start either sides campaign.
United go into the game as huge underdogs as a result of the current injury crisis. Daley Blind is now set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a serious knee injury and he will join team mates Radamel Falcao, Rafael, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Jesse Lingard on the list of players who are defiantly unavailable. The Red’s will be hoping that the trio of Angel Di Maria, David De Gea and Michael Carrick all recover in time to take to the field at The Emirates tomorrow. Here’s how Van Gaal’s side may line up:
Despite fracturing his finger whilst on International duty the Spaniard could still be available tomorrow. If United’s number one has even the slightest chance of starting, expect him to be in between the sticks at 5:30pm tomorrow.
With not exactly an abundance of riches to choose from tomorrow youngster Paddy McNair should be in line to gain yet another start after impressing again at home to Crystal Palace. Alongside the centre back from Northern Ireland the manager will have the choice between Tyler Blackett, Chris Smalling or could possibly opt to bring Michael Carrick back in if the Englishman has recovered from injury. I personally feel that Van Gaal will opt for Smalling in the end despite the number twelve having an absolute nightmare in the derby. Smallings experience will give him the edge over young Tyler Blackett and if fit I feel Michael Carrick will be needed in midfield.
The right-back position picks itself tomorrow with Rafael still being injured, Antonio Valencia will fill that role. As for left-back there is talk of Ashley Young possibly coming in, but as long as Luke Shaw is 70% fit tomorrow I expect him to continue at left-back. The ex-Southampton man has been in good form as of late.
Dayley Blind’s absence will be a huge blow to United tomorrow and there are question marks as to whether Michael Carrick will also be fit to start. If he does recover in time however, Carrick will be a certainty to start and he will be vital in helping shield the United defence. Maroune Fellaini will also more than likely get another chance to impress. The Belgian’s form has improved in fairness and his strength and aerial ability could be a useful asset for the Red’s tomorrow.
In front of the pair I expect Ander Herrera to be re-called to the side, the Spaniard started the season impressively but has failed to break back into the team following a spell on the sidelines. Louis Van Gaal will look to pack the midfield tomorrow in order to null the threat from Arsenal. Finally, Angel Di Maria should hopefully be fit enough to feature, the Argentine’s form has dipped slightly of late but expect him to occupy a more central role for periods tomorrow. Juan Mata would feel very unlucky to miss out if that is the case but he could be a useful asset to come off the bench and change the game tomorrow if needs be.
With Radamel Falcao still out injured the front two pick themselves tomorrow. Wayne Rooney will go into the game on a high following his brace at Celtic Park on Wednesday night and Robin Van Persie will be looking to score his fourth goal against his old employers since making the switch to Manchester.
Predicted Starting XI:
Valencia, McNair, Smalling, Shaw;
Rooney (C), Van Persie.