Manchester United have two warm-up games in two days this weekend as they complete their final preparations for the new season.
On Saturday, they face Atletico Madrid in Oslo before returning to Manchester for Erik ten Hag’s first match in charge at Old Trafford, on Sunday, against Rayo Vallecano.
The question on many people’s lips already is which players will play in which game? Will the new signings – Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez – get a spot in either starting XI? And will a certain Cristiano Ronaldo be involved?
According to The Athletic, “Ten Hag is expected to field his strongest team in Oslo, with those on the fringes facing Rayo.” So what does that mean?
We believe that by “strongest team” The Athletic means the team Ten Hag expects to start the opening Premier League match a week on Sunday against Brighton. That, almost inevitably, will not include Ronaldo even if he is available. Various reports claim that the boss has already decided to start the season with Anthony Martial up front.
Given the fact that Martinez and Eriksen have not been on the tour, they will also probably not go straight into the starting XI for the Brighton game, so they, too, could find themselves in the “also-rans XI” to face Vallecano.
This would mean that this is a likely starting XI to face Atleti on Saturday:
This has been more or less Ten Hag’s starting XI for the tour so far, although Malacia could start over Shaw.
The Athletic also claims that “Ten Hag wanted two games the weekend before the start of the Premier League campaign so more players could get 90 minutes in their legs.
“He made the proposal when only the Atletico game was booked and chief executive Richard Arnold sorted the extra friendly.”
This suggests that the Rayo XI will be his next strongest side. This of course will depend on whether Ronaldo is available or not. If he is, we expect this sort of line-up, with all three new signings lining up alongside each other:
However, without Ronaldo there are no obvious candidates for the striker position, so we think in this case Ten Hag will play with a false 9, probably Donny van de Beek:
Telles was used as a number 6 on the tour so his selection would be another way of giving as many of his senior players 90 minutes as he can.
Hoping to get minutes off the bench in one or the other game will be the likes of Ethan Laird, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Will Fish, Axel Tuanzebe, Charlie Savage, Zidane Iqbal, Tahith Chong, Hannibal, Facundo Pellistri, Amad and Alejandro Garnacho.
The fact that the Reds can field two strong XIs such as these and still have some good experience and quality on the bench bodes well for the new season, with more arrivals expected before the window closes on August 31st.