Manchester United will face West Ham United once again on Wednesday in the EFL Cup fifth round.
The two sides played out a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon in the Premier League, with United sharing the points for a fourth consecutive time in the league at the Theatre of Dreams.
Blind, Shaw to return?
While Jose Mourinho’s men have struggled for wins in league action, they’ve fared relatively well in cup competitions. Indeed, during the run of four consecutive league draws at home, the Red Devils successfully managed to eliminate rivals Manchester City in the last round of the EFL Cup.
A win will send United to the semi-finals and give Mourinho a great chance of winning some silverware in his first season with the club, so he’ll surely be keen to field a strong side. David de Gea should keep his place in goal after Sergio Romero was handed his rare, mandatory start only last week.
In defence, Daley Blind and Luke Shaw should return at centre-back and left-back respectively, and Matteo Darmian could shift across to right-back so that Antonio Valencia can be rested. The Ecuadorian was a surprise inclusion against Arsenal ten days ago after a surprisingly quick return from injury, and he’s started two further games since then.
Mourinho would ideally have Phil Jones as the man completing the back four but he too has featured in all of the last three games, and Mourinho might be tempted to keep Marcos Rojo in the backline instead. The Rojo and Blind pairing kept Manchester City out in a 1-0 win in the previous round.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah is another left-field contender to play at centre-back, but with Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini both suspended, the young Dutchman might also be in contention for a midfield berth.
An unfamiliar midfield
With that aforementioned duo suspended, Mourinho will want at least some continuity in midfield meaning Ander Herrera should resume his role in the side, but the Portuguese coach will have to bring someone in from the cold to partner him.
Indeed, unless Michael Carrick starts the game – and he’d probably be better off being kept fresh for the weekend clash against Everton – Mourinho will, realistically, have to reintroduce one of Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger or Fosu-Mensah. The former is probably the most likely to be involved having featured most of that unfavoured trio this season.
Whatever the midfielder pairing is, Henrikh Mkhitaryan should be starting ahead of them in some capacity. The Armenian dazzled against Feyenoord last week before coming on as a substitute against the Hammers at the weekend, so it would seem logical to build his fitness up by using him from the start in another cup match.
Wayne Rooney wasn’t included in the starting XI on Sunday either and will perhaps get his chance in this game, maybe even as the ‘number ten’.
That would allow Anthony Martial to start on the left – the Frenchman hasn’t even made the matchday squad in the last two games and is due a recall to the side – meaning Mourinho’s most favoured forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic can complete the attack as the main striker.
Predicted XI: De Gea; Darmian, Rojo, Blind, Shaw; Herrera, Schneiderlin; Mkhitaryan, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimovic.