If there is a side that can be called the title contenders so early in the season, it has to be Manchester United. The Premier League has seen early dominance from both Manchester clubs so far, but it is the Red half that has taken it by storm since day one. 10 points from 4 matches, undefeated with 12 goals scored and only 2 conceded, the side looks like the one to beat.
The secret behind Mourinho’s men being so successful so far goes down to the stellar performances put in by their star players, with each delivering to their highest potential. Romelu Lukaku has been scoring the goals, Rashford and Martial have been tearing down the wings, and Mkhitaryan is turning into the assist maestro. Furthermore, the all-round brilliance of Paul Pogba has added a huge amount of flare, passion and quality in United’s team play.
The player is slowly but surely emerging into his best during his second season back at the club. Such commitment and performances resulted in the French midfielder captaining the squad in their first Champions League match against Basel last night. However, it was a night that was cut short, as the player was substituted before the end of the first quarter. A hamstring injury was later revealed to be the cause of the change, and as mentioned by Mourinho later, it will be keeping him out for a ‘few weeks’.
This comes as a huge blow for United, as they prepare to play a number of games in the few weeks to follow, and will have to turn their squad’s depth to do the job. With Pogba out, the Red Devils will have to change the way they have been lining up so far, and here are a few ways that can happen:
1. 4-3-3 with Ander Herrera
While the rest of the Manchester United team stays in perfect harmony and plays beautiful football, the number one change for Mourinho will be replacing the injured player with Spaniard Ander Herrera. The player is yet to make a telling appearance this season, but the quality he possesses cannot be questioned.
The player might not have the physicality to match Pogba, but unmatchable stamina, decent passing range and brilliant ability to win the ball back helps United do the job in style. He was extremely influential last season, but has been facing the bench after the arrival of Matic this time around. This could be the time his season finally hits the ground running.
2. 4-3-3 with Herrera and Fellaini
Another option the manager can use is changing the midfield partnership for the weeks to come. The middle of the park was controlled by Matic and Pogba, but the duo can be replaced by the pair of Fellaini and Herrera. Fellaini can play the holding role while going forward sometimes for heading opportunities, a role that can be balanced by the skill, pace and presence of Herrera. The combination of strength and subtlety is something that works more often than not, and should help United continue their fine form.
3. Rashford and Martial play together
Pogba’s absence does not only reduce pace and power from a strong United side, it also takes a personal favourite touch of Old Trafford out of the line up. With him not around, it calls for the perfect situation for a particular Micheal Carrick to step up to the occasion. A hero among the fans and bundles of winning experience behind him, he’d be the perfect man to replace Pogba in the centre of the pitch.
In order to make up for the lost pace, resting Mata and starting Martial and Rashford together can be an extremely useful option Mourinho can turn towards. Both the youngsters have been excellent so far, and have taken turns to come off the bench and score on more than a couple occasions.
Such are the line ups one does predict Mourinho to field, as he prepares for life without his most expensive player. However, the Portuguese tactician is as unpredictable as they come, and seeing his move is something the United fans are anxiously excited about.
Here is United’s strongest shaped XI without their main man Paul:
David De Gea
Written by Vikram Gupta
An attacker with his words, and defends each of them with pride. A love for the game which goes hand in hand with his will to forever write. A graduate in the course of advertising and a hopeful to be author. Herrera for the win.