New season and fresh optimism at Old Trafford after a successful summer in terms of transfers. Fortunately there were no injuries during the pre-season tour so van Gaal should have a full squad to choose from. Here’s my starting eleven for the first game of the season against Tottenham.
GK: David De Gea
Obvious choice in terms of quality but not in terms of the current situation. De Gea wants to leave and everyone knows that but I really don’t see a deal with Real Madrid happening. The options for them were: 1) Sell Ramos and get De Gea or 2) Pay £28 million (or £32 depending on what you read). They will do neither so I expect the goalkeeper to see out the rest of his contract and leave on a free next summer. Yes, United will not get any money from it next year but it shows they won’t be bullied into giving Madrid what they want. A refreshing change to be honest. As along as van Gaal thinks De Gea’s mentality is right, I expect him to start next week.
RB: Matteo Darmian
Not Antonio Valencia, who is quite dependable but seriously lacks imagination when attacking. Darmian gives you energy, pace, good positional sense, height and ability to play on the left or right. He’s looked solid during pre-season and it’ll be interesting to see how he finds his first experience of the Premier League.
CB: Phil Jones
Was selected as the right centre back in the last two pre-season games, suggesting he’ll start against Spurs. I haven’t really got a problem with that as I think Jones ended last season quite well. Just needs to cut out some of the anxiety in his game and then more supporters will see him as a good defender.
CB: Chris Smalling
NOT DALEY BLIND, PLEASE! Blind, like Jones, started the last two games and I have a feeling he’s gonna start against Spurs. Why? I honestly don’t know. He’s 5ft 11, not particularly fast nor strong so why has he been selected ahead of Smalling? Smalling was the best centre back for United last season, especially from January. He’s the third captain according to the manager and our best matches of last season against Spurs, Liverpool and Man City had Jones and Smalling as the centre backs. He has to start.
LB: Luke Shaw
Another pretty obvious decision. Last season Shaw played whenever he was fit and I imagine it’ll be the same this time. He’s not injured now and looked strong in pre-season so he’ll start on the 8th.
CM: Ander Herrera
He has to start in my opinion but I don’t think he will. Herrera was the best signing of last season and he’s a player I really enjoy watching. He provides intelligence and skill, he’s aggressive on and off the ball, he can score a goal and he’s comfortable with both feet. He’d get in my team every week, I’m a really big fan of Herrera.
CM: Michael Carrick
I’d go with Carrick ahead of Schweinsteiger because it’s a big ask to throw the German into the mix so early, especially after he had a minor injury last week. Everyone knew how important Carrick was last season so I still see him as a key player in this team and I’d start him next week.
CM: Morgan Schneiderlin
I don’t see any reason to not start Schneiderlin. He’s used to the league and he’s a very good addition to the squad. He provides that bit of steel the midfield needed and he’s good on the ball as well. He’s trained and played with the squad for the last couple of weeks so he should feel fine starting the first match.
LW: Memphis Depay
When he was signed I thought Depay would be played as a LW. So I was surprised to see him as a no.10 during pre-season. I haven’t seen how he plays as a left winger so I don’t know where he plays better. I’d like to see how he does in his usual position.
ST: Wayne Rooney
Another nailed-on one. I still see Rooney as a very good striker so as long as we keep Javier Hernandez, I don’t see the need for another striker. Hopefully this season this is the only position Rooney will play so he can achieve the goal targets he’s set himself.
RW: Juan Mata
Two weeks ago I’d have said Di Maria but we all know that’s not happening. Juan Mata also ended the season well and seemed to play his best in the RW position, which I found quite surprising. Because of this I’d start him against Tottenham too.