Manchester United are currently experiencing their best run of form for over eighteen months in the Premier League. Not since Louis van Gaal’s first season in charge have the Red Devils recorded four consecutive league wins, and with two games in three days against Middlesbrough and West Ham United on the horizon, Jose Mourinho must fancy his side’s chances of making it six on the trot.
First up, Boro boss Aitor Karanka brings his team to Old Trafford on Saturday for the first league meeting between these teams since 2009. Middlesbrough dumped Van Gaal’s United side out of the EFL Cup last season in a fourth round penalty shootout, and Mourinho will be hoping to avoid a similar slip-up this weekend. With that in mind, here’s our predicted starting XI;
Despite the crammed festive fixture list, Mourinho will likely stick with the same back five that earned three points against Sunderland on Boxing Day. Daley Blind impressed at left back, and opened the scoring with his low finish in the first half, and there’s little reason to break up the surprisingly dependable partnership of Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones in the heart of defence.
Midfield shouldn’t see too much tinkering, either; the trio of Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba complement each other perfectly, offering a good mix of vision, energy, control and attacking ability. However, Mourinho may have to manage the fitness of Carrick in particular, with the 35-year old unlikely to be able to play the entirety of these both games.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic may also need a rest at some stage, but given the Swede’s current form in front of goal, Mourinho will be loath to drop him to the bench. Behind him, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should replace Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, changes which made United look decidedly more dangerous against Sunderland on Monday.
Let us know what you think of this starting XI in the comments!