Manchester United will play just their second pre-season match of the new season on Saturday evening as they take on Turkish outfit Galatasaray in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The Reds, who announced a 23-man squad for the trip on Friday, were meant to take on Manchester City on Monday but poor weather forced that game to be called off. That meant United played just once – a 4-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund – on their tour of China.
Attention now turns to Sweden, though, and that calls for one man in particular – Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The former PSG striker is a god-like figure in his home country and, after returning to training on Sunday, it seems likely an exception will be made for him to start in front of his home crowd against Galatasaray, despite spending less than a week preparing for action.
However, fellow returning internationals Anthony Martial, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Marouane Fellaini, all of whom are in the Reds squad, have spent even less time in training and are unlikely to start, having only returned to the club’s Aon training complex on Thursday.
The Reds' three Copa America representatives, Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo of Argentina and Ecuador's Antonio Valencia have all already returned to the United set-up and will travel to Sweden.
Fitter Reds to get the nod
Other than Ibrahimovic, the remainder of United’s starting team against Galatasaray will probably consist of players that were on United’s tour of China which ended earlier this week.
David de Gea, Chris Smalling and Wayne Rooney all travelled to the Far East without featuring in the loss to Borussia Dortmund, but could feature against Galatasaray with over a week’s training under their belts.
Valencia is the obvious choice to play at right-back, whilst Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw should complete the back-four after impressing in previous matches. Jose Mourinho had hinted at the pair being rested for the Manchester City game after they played 90 minutes in the previous game against Dortmund, but with that game now over a week behind them, that should no longer be a concern to the Portuguese manager.
Ander Herrera and Juan Mata also played the entirety of the game against the German side and whilst the former should retain his place in midfield alongside one of Michael Carrick or Daley Blind, the latter could be replaced at number ten by the returning Rooney. The captain will play centrally and will have two of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Memphis Depay and Jesse Lingard either side of him.
New signing Mkhitaryan is the only one of the three to feature for longer than an hour in one game so far and should be deployed on the right, whilst academy product Lingard should fill in on the other side, as Memphis was preferred as a striker last time out.
Other names in the squad include Sam Johnstone, Phil Jones and Ashley Young, but it would be a surprise to see any of the English trio starting the game, as none have made a huge impression in the two pre-season games so far.
Schweinsteiger amongst several exclusions
That trio are unlikely to play but one man who definitely won’t be involved is Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German has just returned from holiday after reaching the Euro 2016 semi-finals with his country, and isn’t in the travelling squad after he was reportedly informed that he could leave the club this summer – and thus told to train with the reserves.
The German was not alone in training with the secondary set-up, though, and was joined by Adnan Januzaj, Andreas Pereira, Will Keane, James Wilson and Paddy McNair, all of whom were also told they were free to leave this summer – whether that be on a permanent or temporary basis.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was also said to be amongst that contingent but he, like Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who didn’t train on Thursday, might simply have been left out of the squad to face Galatasary because of recent injury problems.
Whatever the line-up may be, there’s likely to be plenty of rotation in the team as Mourinho will surely want to give as many minutes to his players as possible, with this the club’s penultimate warm-up fixture of the summer.
Predicted XI: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw; Carrick, Herrera; Mkhitaryan, Rooney, Lingard; Ibrahimovic.