This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
After falling to a disappointing 1-0 defeat to a struggling Newcastle a couple of weeks ago, Manchester United are back in Premier League action after the international break to take on arch-rivals Liverpool on Sunday.
The Red Devils currently find themselves a staggering 15 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side already, and a loss to the them at Old Trafford at the weekend would pull them further into the mire. An injury crisis that has overwhelmed their campaign has only served to dampen the mood surrounding the club, and whilst there were initial hopes of players potentially making their comebacks for the huge clash, that does not appear to be the case.
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Paul Pogba has been officially ruled out for the game, whilst United suffered a major blow when David de Gea picked up a muscle problem whilst playing for Spain. It all means Solskjaer will have to take one or two gambles in his team selection, as he looks to get back to winning ways.
So with De Gea ruled out – although Solskjaer confirmed his injury is not as bad as it was first feared – Sergio Romero will have to step up from the side-lines to face Liverpool’s much-vaunted forward-line. Ahead of him, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are likely to resume their centre-back partnership, but it is in the full-back areas that the Red Devils boss could be tempted to change.
Solskjaer intimated Aaron Wan-Bissaka may be able to play a part against the Reds, and if that is the case, he simply has to start from the off. The 21-year-old’s 31 tackles this season puts him in fourth amongst all Premier League players – that despite him missing the last two games.
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On the other flank, Brandon Williams may be another risk worth taking. The academy product is much quicker than the 34-year-old Ashley Young, and as a right-footed left-back, may be better able to cope with Mohamed Salah’s tendency to come inside – if he does play, it would be his debut in the top-flight.
In midfield, Pogba’s absence will likely see Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic hold down the two deeper-lying midfield positions. Further forward, Daniel James and Juan Mata are likely to keep their places in their respective roles, but the apparent return to fitness of Anthony Martial is a major boost to Solskjaer.
The France international could play up front to give the Red Devils some much-needed firepower, and that in turn would allow Marcus Rashford to return to the left-flank where he scored a wonderful goal for England against Bulgaria on international duty.
In any other circumstance, Solskjaer may be reluctant to take gambles on players with fitness issues or a lack of experience. But their dire start, and the desperate need for a win makes this the perfect time for him to take a risk with his team selection.