Manchester United: Potential starting line-up

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Football News

Manchester United got off to the perfect start to their first Premier League campaign under new manager David Moyes, beating Michael Laudrup's highly-rated Swansea side 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium.

Moyes' first ever Premier League starting XI was as follows: David de Gea; Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra; Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs; Danny Welbeck, Robin van Persie. 

Welbeck and Van Persie helped themselves to two goals each and Wayne Rooney was excellent when brought off the bench, getting two assists to his name.

Anderson also got a run out, and judging by the amount of game time he was given by Moyes during United's pre-season tour of the Far East, he will be a crucial part of the Scot's plans for the season.

The likes of Wilfried Zaha, Shinji Kagawa, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard, Adnan Januzaj, Nani and Chris Smalling weren't even utilised by Moyes, which goes to show the strength in depth that the current United squad possesses. 

Despite the fact that Moyes inherited a squad with a fantastic combination of youth and experience, and has gotten his United career off to a promising start, it is an opinion widely held by fans and critics alike that the Scot will have to bolster his squad by bringing in at least one or two fresh faces if he is to succeed in defending United's league crown.

Moyes tried and failed to sign even one of Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Kevin Strootman in his persistent attempts to bolster his midfield, and - if rumours are to be believed - is currently set on bringing Marouane Fellaini and Luka Modric to United.

He has been linked with Fellaini, his former player at Everton, for a long time now, and has reportedly put in several bids for the player, all of which have been rejected by the Toffees' management.

While no official contact has been made with Real Madrid concerning the possibility of a bid for Modric, it is widely believed that the Croatian sees Old Trafford as his preferred destination.

With just over a week of the transfer window left to go, it remains to be seen whether Moyes will be able to secure deals for the players he wants to add to his squad.

As Moyes, vice-chairman Ed Woodward and other United officials continue to tirelessly persevere outside the spotlight in order to help acquire the right players for the club, we take a look at the best starting XI that United could send out if they do succeed in signing one or two big players.

I have gone with a 4-1-2-2-1 formation, which is just a fancy adaptation of the 4-3-3, with one striker up top and two central midfielders acting as the creative fulcrum of the team, in front of one defensive anchorman.

For reasons I shall explain below, I have named Rooney as a midfielder, but his starting position is merely trivial; he will surely be utilised more as a second-striker to  Van Persie than a midfielder, and my starting XI makes room for that possibility.

Goalkeeper: David de Gea

There can be no doubt that former Atletico Madrid keeper David de Gea is the indisputable number one at Old Trafford.

In his two years as a United player, De Gea has evolved into one of the most assured keepers in the Premier League, and now provides a stark contrast to the player he was when he first joined the club.

Infinitely more confident of his aerial ability, De Gea has adapted admirably to the physical nature of the Premier League, and is no longer a target for scathing criticism by the English media.

One of the best shot-stoppers in the world, De Gea was voted into the PFA Premier League Team of the Year at the end of the 2012/13 campaign, and started the season in goal against Swansea. It is unlikely that he will be displaced from Moyes' starting XI in the near future.

Right-back: Rafael da Silva

Once an impetuous, rash wing-back with an extremely short temper on the pitch, Rafael has matured into a dependable figure at the back for United.

Having shored up his defensive skills and worked on his attitude, the young Brazilian has very much established himself as the long-term replacement for Gary Neville at the club.

As capable of launching counter-attacks and supporting his winger in the opposing team's half as he is of defending deep in his own half, Rafael is the model right-back, and certainly the best option Moyes has to choose from, seeing as Phil Jones was less than convincing in the game against Swansea, which Rafael missed through suspension.

Centre-backs: Rio Ferdinand & Nemanja Vidic

Despite their advanced years and the stiff competition provided by the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, the duo of Ferdinand and Vidic look set to renew their partnership in the centre of United's defence.

Considered by many to be the greatest centre-back partnership in recent footballing memory, the two defenders complement each other perfectly, with Ferdinand's silky ball control and vision providing the perfect foil for Vidic's no-nonsense approach to defending.

It is difficult to say how many years the two behemoth defenders have left of their careers, since they have both suffered from numerous injury problems down the years; but it is fair to say that they will be among the first names on  Moyes' team-sheet when fit.

Left-back: Patrice Evra

Since joining United in January 2006, Evra has gone on to establish himself as one of the world's best left-backs; determined, pacey, athletic, excellent in the air, great going forward, dependable at the back and a genuine leader, Evra has everything you'd want from a modern-day full-back.

Granted, age might have start to catch up with him, as he has had to endure uncharacteristically slow starts to the last two Premier League campaigns before coming into his own towards the end of each season, but there is still no evidence suggesting that the French international is a liability to the team.

In light of this, it is slightly peculiar that David Moyes seems intent on bringing Leighton Baines to Old Trafford, when he already has a proven world-class left-back in Evra, with able replacements in Alex Buttner and Fabio da Silva.

If United and Everton are unable to strike a deal for Baines, Evra will likely continue to maintain his firm stranglehold of the left-back position at Old Trafford.

Defensive midfield: Marouane Fellaini

Forget Baines, the one player from Everton that Moyes should leave no stone unturned in his attempts to sign is the colossal Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini.

Originally an anchorman by trade, the from Standard Liege player was predominantly utilised as a second striker by Moyes during the last two seasons in a move that saw Everton profit from his immense physicality and ability to wreak havoc in the opposing team's penalty area.

However, if Moyes were to succeed in bringing the midfielder to United, the most natural position for the player would undoubtedly be in the centre of midfield, for reasons not restricted to the fact that Fellaini has openly admitted to preferring a defensive role in midfield to an attacking one.

Fellaini would be perfect in the holding role at United, not only because the club does not currently have a player capable of playing that role on a regular basis, but also because he is holding down the fort at the back would grant the likes of Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs the licence to exercise their creativity more freely.

Fellaini would be a crucial piece to the jigsaw puzzle that is United's squad, and would certainly prove to be worth the immense amount of money that Moyes will most likely have to spend on him.

Central midfield: Luka Modric & Wayne Rooney

Recent reports have linked United with interest in Chelsea's Juan Mata and Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil, as the club continues the search for a world-class creative midfielder.

It seems unlikely that Chelsea will part ways with their two-time Player of the Year Mata, unless Rooney makes the move in the opposite direction, while Mesut Ozil should reprise his role as playmaker in chief at the Bernebau irrespective of the situation surrounding the transfer of Gareth Bale.

In the extremely likely event that United fail to sign either of the two, the player they should seriously consider signing is Luka Modric.

The Croatian was linked with a move to United before actually joining Madrid, but the arrival of the likes of Isco and Asier Illarramendi could be the reason behind his reported desire to join United.

Often compared to United legend Paul Scholes for his style of play, Modric would fit into the United side without any problems, and his vision, incisive passing and ability to control the speed and direction of the game while in possession would give United the upper hand against almost any time. 

Despite Mourinho showing no signs of letting up in his pursuit of Wayne Rooney, it is highly unlikely that Moyes will agree to part with the man he introduced to Premier League football over a decade ago.

While Rooney has lost a yard or two of pace, he remains an extremely skilful and talented footballer, and a source of regular goals, which is something Moyes will be loath to lose this late in the transfer window.

Reports have suggested Rooney doesn't want to play to Van Persie, and did not take kindly to being played in midfield by Sir Alex Ferguson last season, which are the main reasons behind his seeking a move away from Old Trafford.

However, it is my opinion that Rooney's best position over the next few years could well be in midfield, owing to his creativity and eye for a long ball.

He would do well as a box-to-box midfielder, and his presence on the pitch would afford Moyes much the same level of tactical versatility as Fellaini did at Goodison Park. 

This lineup follows a 4-1-2-2-1 set up, but Rooney's desire to play as a striker could see Moyes change it to a 4-2-2-2 (or a 4-4-2) by playing Modric alongside Fellaini and pushing Rooney up to join Van Persie in attack.

He could also field Rooney as a second striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, similar to the system France utilised in the 2006 World Cup, with Zidane playing off Thierry Henry, supported by Florent Malouda and Franck Ribery on the wings.

Being able to switch tactics without making substitutions is a luxury that few managers are allowed to experience, but Rooney's presence in midfield would allow United to shuffle things up during games, which is a great asset to have when going up against Premier League sides that are becoming increasingly tactically sophisticated.

United have showed signs of evolving from their traditional flat-four midfield to a three-man midfield in recent years, and Rooney has been key to this change.

Losing the number 10 would be a blow to United's squad, whereas managing to convince him to stay and adopt the kind of role that has been described above would serve the best interests of both the club and the player.

Rooney and Modric would complement each other very well; the former would provide the penetrating runs from midfield, while the latter would sit back and maintain distribution of possession effectively, making United a much deadlier team when in possession.

Wingers: Wilfried Zaha & Antonio Valencia/Ashley Young & Nani

In the four players above mentioned, United boast four excellent wingers who can collectively offer different threats from the wing: Zaha and Valencia love nothing more than to stick to the wing, beat players down the touchline and deliver crosses from the byline, while Nani and Young are adept at cutting in from the flanks and linking up with the central striker and midfielders, which is why they have been divided into pairs.

If Moyes is looking to play with traditional wingers who stay out wide rather than play in the inside wide channels, then Zaha and Valencia would provide the perfect combination.

The fact that both players are so good at beating defenders with their raw pace, and do their best work when sticking to the flanks makes them the perfect wingers for a 4-4-2 system.

We all know what Valencia is about in terms of his approach to wing-play, but it will be interesting to see how Moyes utilises the young and impressive Zaha.

The Englishman is capable of playing on either wing, and has showed signs of coming close to Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of his playing style and affinity for beating defenders with his dribbling ability and raw physicality.

On the other hand, Young and Nani are the kind of players who prefer to cut in across full-backs towards the centre of the pitch.

Young plays on the left flank, and excels at showing the opposing right-back the outside line and changing direction at the last moment to enter the inside left channel of the pitch, from where he can either deliver deep crosses or take on shots (the goals he scored against Arsenal in the 8-2 victory serve to illustrate this idea).

Nani does the same on the right flank, and routinely cuts in onto his left foot and takes shots. Both players are known for their trickery and excellent delivery of crosses, and with a striker like Van Persie up front, you can expect these qualities to be fully utilised over the course of the season.

Moyes will select his two wingers depending on what kind of tactical set up he uses. What cannot be doubted is that he has sufficient ammunition from the wings for the season, and should rely on the four players already mentioned to supply him with a considerable number of goals and assists.

Striker: Robin van Persie

Need any more be said? The Dutchman is without doubt the best striker in the Premier League, and has showed that he is more than capable of carrying this young United side on his shoulders as it embarks on the journey into a new era in the history of the club.

Van Persie will undoubtedly be the first name on the teamsheet this season, and can be expected to score goals on a regular basis. 

Capable of playing as a target man in the penalty area, or dropping deep to support his midfielders, he is the perfect lone striker.

He is also capable of playing alongside another striker, and has showed signs of forging a formidable understanding with Rooney that, if allowed to flourish, could be the difference between United and the other five teams vying for Champions League football.

The United team looks like it has more than sufficient strength in depth to face the dual challenges of domestic and continental football this season, and can be expected to mount a sturdy defence of the Premier League title they won in breathtaking fashion last season, while attempting to return to the summit of European football.

Agree or disagree with my starting line-up? Have your say below.

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Robin Van Persie
Premier League
Manchester United

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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