Manchester United line up against Reading later tonight in the fourth round of the FA Cup looking to continue their impressive run in all four competitions under new man Erik ten Hag this season.
This level of dominance in multiple tournaments has meant that United have played a game every 3-4 days on an average post the World Cup, and their first team is in desperate need of some rest.
United should line up in their usual 4-3-3 formation. There may be a debut on the cards, with Jack Butland likely to feature for the first time since his loan move from Crystal Palace was completed.
He is a competent sweeper, better at ball distribution than David de Gea, and should help the Red Devils keep possession better.
Luke Shaw’s illness means Tyrell Malacia will step in at left full back, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka continuing on the right hand side of defence.
A centre-back pairing of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire will look to move higher up the pitch, with the latter’s pinged passes to the left likely to be a key weapon in the armory for the Red Devils once again.
With games coming thick and fast, rest could be afforded to both Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes with young Kobbie Mainoo given the nod from the start. Scott McTominay and Fred are expected to play deeper and will look to dominate the ball and move it to the wingers quickly in transition.
Mainoo had started for United in the Carabao Cup win against Charlton, and he, alongside Fred, will be the creative outlets in midfield, threading passes into the half-spaces, and going forward to add numbers in attack.
McTominay will bring steel to the defence from his no. 6 role, and cover the midfield runners, also helping out his full-backs if they are outnumbered.
With Martial injured, and the trio of Weghorst, Rashford and Antony desperately requiring some rest, United could line up with a youthful attack comprising of Anthony Elanga, Facundo Pellistri and Alejandro Garnacho.
The trio will look to run in behind, and combine in the final third. Pellistri and Garnacho will cut inside and attempt to find Elanga with low crosses fizzed into the box.
All three youngsters came off the bench during the 3-0 win against Forest in the semifinals of the Carabao Cup, with Elanga getting the assist for Fernandes’s goal, and this will be the perfect opportunity for them to get at the opposition and show the manager what they’re made of.
Youngster Charlie McNeill scored a brace mid-week during a 2-1 win against Feyenoord U21s in the Premier League International Cup, but was conspicuously missing in action against Blackburn U21s yesterday, with Joe Hugill leading the line and scoring himself.
The 19-year-old, McNeill, was the first academy graduate to make an appearance under Ten Hag, during a Europa League fixture against Real Sociedad.
He will likely come off the bench as the opposition begin to tire, and if he can make a good impression, the road ahead promises to be an interesting one.
United will dominate proceedings today, but they will have to be wary about a Reading counter-attack, with the Royals featuring seasoned professionals like Shane Long and Lucas Joao in attack alongside the wily Tom Ince.
There are places in the Red Devil’s first-team setup up for grabs as they look to continue their march on multiple fronts, and a lot of players that feature today will hope to show their manager that he can rely on them going forward.
An interesting clash on the horizon at the Theatre of Dreams.
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