Man Utd's potential XI under Luis Enrique, featuring Barcelona star

  • Kobe Tong

Luis Enrique is in the running to become the new Manchester United manager.

While Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Tag looked to have become the frontrunners in recent weeks, the Daily Mail are reporting that the Spain boss is still in the hunt to take over at Old Trafford.

Insiders revealed on Sunday night that Luis Enrique has a number of admirers at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ with the prospect of not having to pay top dollar to prize him away from the national team job proving attractive.

Luis Enrique in the hunt for Man Utd job

Despite having been seen as an outsider for much of United‘s managerial hunt, those close to the situation are now reportedly touting him as a ‘real contender’ despite the complications brought about by the World Cup.

‘Lucho’ previously enjoyed great success in club football with Barcelona where he won two La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey trophies, the Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

He also took charge of Barcelona B, Celta Vigo and AS Roma along the way to leading Spain to the 2022 World Cup and catching the eyes of United’s chief in process.

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Let’s start easy: who’s this iconic character?

How could United line up under Luis Enrique

So, with Luis Enrique reportedly still very much in the running to become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s permanent replacement, it only made sense that we pictured how that would actually look.

Yes, it’s one thing to imagine the trophies raining in as Luis Enrique solidifies his status as a natural-born winner, but how would United’s team actually line up in a world where the Spaniard took over?

Well, fear not, because we’ve answered that exact question by combining our knowledge of Luis Enrique’s philosophy with United’s realistic transfer goals to compile their 2022/23 starting XI under the Spain boss.

Naturally, it’s impossible to predict the future, so it’s simply our best and most realistic guess, but we’re pretty confident that Luis Enrique would be rubbing his hands together at the prospect of the line-up down below:

The reasoning behind our XI

The key here really is the midfield.

If Luis Enrique’s ‘vertical tika-taka’ in his trusty 4-3-3 formation is going to bear fruit at United like it did at Barcelona then they’re going to need a serious upgrade on Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic.

First and foremost, regardless of whether it’s ‘Lucho’, Pochettino or Roy Keane coming in as manager, the Red Devils need a born and bred defensive midfielder who can hold the fort week in, week out.

And there’s a real bargain to be had in Marseille’s Boubacar Kamara, who is a young and exciting fit for the Sergio Busquets role available on a free transfer this summer.

Soccer Football – Ligue 1 – Olympique de Marseille v Stade Rennes – Orange Velodrome, Marseille, France – March 10, 2021 Stade Rennes’ Jeremy Doku in action with Olympique de Marseille’s Boubacar Kamara REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

The 22-year-old’s experience as a centre-back gives him the level of defensive acumen that Luis Enrique will demand from his deepest-lying midfielder when he inevitably wants his full-backs to push up the pitch.

That’s why we’ve plumped for Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot given their forward-thinking qualities, leaving out the more defensive-minded Aaron Wan-Bissaka and the perpetually-inconsistent Alex Telles.

They will be able to create overloads in the wide areas that should bring out the best in Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, who will thrive under Luis Enrique’s system as top-level dribblers who can work in tight spaces.

Soccer Football – Premier League – Leicester City v Manchester United – King Power Stadium, Leicester, Britain – October 16, 2021 Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford comes on as a substitute to replace Jadon Sancho as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks on REUTERS/Rebecca Naden EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

A new lease of life for Rashford would also see him put in the hard yards to become a faux left midfielder when United aren’t in possession much just like Neymar did for Barcelona in the 2014/15 season.

However, back to the midfield for a minute, because our second and final signing sees Frenkie de Jong channeling Ivan Rakitic as the perfect hybrid of a number six and eight to allow Bruno Fernandes to press high.

Yes, he would likely cost a pretty penny with Barcelona on the surge under Xavi, but he’s a match made in heaven for Luis Enrique’s United with his truly rare cocktail of defensive sensibilities and penetrative passing.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MARCH 10: Frenkie de Jong of FC Barcelona looks on during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Leg One match between FC Barcelona and Galatasaray at Camp Nou on March 10, 2022 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

And ball-playing ability will be so crucial if Luis Enrique is going to get his United team playing a more possession-based style of football, so David de Gea and Harry Maguire could easily lose their starting places.

You only have to look at the fact that the ex-Barca boss hasn’t favoured De Gea between the sticks for Spain to see that Dean Henderson could be persuaded to stay on as number one in a world where this happened.

So, there you have it, the exciting United XI that Luis Enrique could take into the 2022/23 season if he took over, thriving in a 4-3-3 formation in possession and folding back into a 4-4-2 whilst defending.

Arsenal to sign Marcus Rashford? (Football Terrace)

The Red Devils are going to have their work cut out if they want to secure Luis Enrique’s signature ahead of his maiden World Cup as Spain coach, but the potential line-up goes to show that it might well be worth the effort.

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