Following the lengthy international break, Manchester United will resume their stuttering title challenge with a home affair against Liverpool on Saturday.
Louis van Gaal’s side have not endured a difficult start to the new campaign, epitomised by their 2-1 loss to Swansea City, with the Dutchman's woes recently worsened by veteran Michael Carrick suffering yet another injury with the England national team.
That said, a lot has changed in favour of United. David de Gea’s dream move to Real Madrid collapsed while 19-year-old forward Antony Martial joined the Manchester outfit, thus providing a welcoming selection dilemma for Van Gaal to deal with. Here's a potential starting XI for the match against their fierce rivals:
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Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
The news of De Gea’s failed Madrid move was good news for everyone but the Argentine shot-stopper who, whilst a good goalkeeper, is not of the same class as the Spaniard.
Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that Van Gaal will allow De Gea to feature so soon after his lengthy transfer saga, so expect Romero to retain his place for the time being.
Right-back: Matteo Darmian
Darmian has been one of few United players to consistently perform this season. The Italian has been rock-solid defensively whilst also managing to be efficient with his distribution and going forward.
And whilst he might not be a headline grabber, Darmian provides his side with much needed security and consistency at the back - something that will be needed against Liverpool.
Centre-back: Chris Smalling
The England international has continued his outstanding early season form both domestically and on the international stage. Smalling dominates both aerial and ground challenges whilst being assured in possession, and has morphed into a complete package during his time at the Red Devils.
Centre-back: Daley Blind
Despite being significantly exposed against Swansea, Blind will most likely retain his place as a result of Van Gaal’s stubbornness.
Still, Blind does provide United with excellent distribution from the back and will no doubt aid in the keeping of possession. Whether he is the right partner for Smalling, though, is another matter entirely.
Left-back: Luke Shaw
Perhaps United’s best performer against the Swans, Shaw has been another to impress in his second season under Van Gaal. The starlet has disturbed opposing defences with his startling change of pace and has formed a budding partnership with Memphis Depay.
The England international has also been relatively solid defensively, apart from the odd lapse in concentration. This should be enough to warrant a starting berth.
Centre midfield: Morgan Schneiderlin
Out of the central midfielder options that Van Gaal has at his disposal, only one, in Morgan Schneiderlin, is strong defensively. The Frenchman provides excellent defensive cover in front of the back four and, whilst also a calm distributor of the ball, will most likely be the deepest lying midfielder of United’s contingent.
Centre midfield: Ander Herrera
Like Schneiderlin, Herrera possesses a unique characteristic to the other midfield options. The Spaniard is one of just two of United’s midfielders - the other being Bastian Schweinsteiger - that comes short to the ball and distributes it from a deep position, which could effectively speed up the Red Devils' build up play.
It seems Van Gaal has finally taken notice of this by handing Herrera consecutive starts. For many Manchester United fans, it's about time.
Left midfield: Memphis Depay
The Dutch youngster’s bright start has soured since his first Champions League match at Old Trafford. Nevertheless, Memphis is still developing and has displayed moments of quality.
His searing pace down the left-hand side quickens play in the final third, and additionally, Depay also provides a goalscoring threat and play a pivotal role if United are to emerge victorious against Liverpool.
Right midfield: Juan Mata
In the past few months, Mata has made a position, which was largely alien to him, his own. The Spaniard’s presence on the right allows United to overload the center of the pitch, and with Mata often coming inside, United essentially have an extra man.
The Spain international has already scored and assisted goals this season, and his cutting-edge play could yield a positive result.
Second striker: Wayne Rooney
England’s all-time leading goalscorer continues to toil in the lone striker role. Perhaps moving Rooney into a slightly withdrawn forward role would improve his form, and in a deeper role, the 29-year-old could show off his creative qualities and prove a threat from long distance, like he has proven many times before.
Striker: Anthony Martial
United’s new teenage forward offers the very aspect the club lack upfront - pace. With Martial running in behind and into channels, United’s creative midfield will have always have an outlet when pushing forward.
The Frenchman's movement will also open up space for Rooney to operate in as well. Including this young prodigy in the starting XI would benefit the whole team.
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