Last season is dead, long live the new season!
Just over four weeks after their 2019-20 season finished in the Europa League semi-finals, Manchester United are ready to start their 20-21 season, albeit a week later than most teams, including Saturday’s visiting opponent Crystal Palace, who began the campaign with a 1-0 win over Southampton.
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This is a quick turnaround for a United side whose summer break will have lasted just one month and three days and the United offense of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, and Mason Greenwood have had a short offseason with international duties or injuries leading up to them.
This could be a very interesting lineup on Saturday. Both Pogba and Greenwood have been quarantined because of the coronavirus so their fitness is in doubt. Pogba is fully recovered from the virus, but his fitness levels could be a few steps behind some of his teammates and so manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will decide before kickoff.
Expect newcomer Donny van de Beek to get the start after playing in the friendly against Villa last week. After that, who knows what can happen. Expect David De Gea in the net while Dean Henderson has to settle for a spot on the bench, for how long is anyone’s guess.
Expect the usual backline of Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Luke Shaw. Both Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Brandon Williams will be available for selection on the bench and might come on to provide some defensive protection in the second half.
The midfield is a complete toss-up. It would make sense to lineup with Van de Beek, Pogba, James and Fernandes but Matic could easily slot in as a starter too. Upfront is easy, Rashford and Martial with Greenwood a possibility if United lineup 4-3-3 against Palace.
Crystal Palace are very short of defensive options with Gary Cahill, Patrick van Aanholt, James Tomkins, and Nathan Ferguson among the players out injured.
Mamadou Sakho’s midweek return is timely, then, but the former Liverpool center-back is unlikely to be ready from the start this weekend and so Cheikhou Kouyate could once again fill in alongside Scott Dann.
Eberechi Eze will be pushing for his full Premier League debut, while Batshuayi will be hopeful of a start up front, perhaps alongside Jordan Ayew.
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Van de Beek, Pogba; James, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial
Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Guaita; Ward, Kouyate, Dann, Mitchell; Eze, McCarthy, McArthur, Zaha; Batshuayi, Ayew