“The Times They Are A Changing”
- Bob Dylan
Well, we have football! It’s only been four months since that could have been said but at least it’s better than doing yard work on the weekends.
When the project restart games were announced, the Premier League schedule makers put pressure on Manchester United right out of the gate with an away game against old friend Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham Hotspurs.
In the race for a top-four spot and with Manchester City’s FIFA Champions League decision expected in July, this is a very important match if United want that elusive Champions League spot.
When we last left you, United had a stronger injury list than first-team lineup at times. Needless to say, the break has given manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer an “almost” fully fit squad, including the possibility of the return on Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford.
There will be plenty of selection decisions for Solskjaer to consider with youngsters Teden Mengi and James Garner joining training, as the hectic fixture schedule begins later this week.
The front line is boosted with on-loan striker Odion Ighalo, being available after extending his loan from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua until January 2021.
One notable rule change for the restart is five substitutions, and having nine instead of seven players on the bench, are both allowed. This will give United options, but Solskjaer will have to ease into getting the newly healthy players minutes.
“Well, we hope everybody’s going to be ready for the first game,” he said, on Wednesday. “We’ve had time out so I don’t think we can expect that those lads who’ve missed lots of the football can last the full game. But now the rules have changed, we can use five subs and have nine on the bench.
“I think that’s helpful because footballers, after being out for so long, going into competitive games will be a challenge for them and we have to look after them injury-wise and fitness-wise. We can’t just flog one player and say to them, ‘you play every game and every minute’ because it might be a period when we have to rotate quite often.”
As for Tottenham, they too have had an opportunity to get players healthy with the break in play.
Four players who would have been sidelined had the game been played on the original date in March – Moussa Sissoko, Steven Bergwijn, Heung-min Son and star striker Harry Kane – all featured in a friendly with Norwich City to boost their hopes of selection on Friday.
The Spurs will be without one key offensive threat though, midfielder Dele Alli will miss the game as he serves a one-match suspension imposed by the Football Association for misconduct for a breach of the Covid-19 lockdown rules.
Predicted 20-man squad: David de Gea, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Brandon Williams, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Nemanja Matic, Fred, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Dan James, Eric Bailly, Odion Ighalo, Sergio Romero, Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Mason Greenwood.
Out: Nathan Bishop, Lee Grant, Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Jesse Lingard, James Garner, Teden Mengi.