UNITED V BRIGHTON: PUNDITS’ PREDICTED XIS
As thousands of fans head to the United App to predict the line-up for Sunday’s Premier League opener against Brighton & Hove Albion, four experts have been discussing Erik ten Hag’s options in front of MUTV’s cameras.
Former players David May and Ben Thornley and journalists Neil Custis (The Sun) and Rob Dawson (ESPN) all put forward the sides they think the new Reds manager will field for his first competitive game, after watching the six pre-season friendlies, in which 34 different players featured.
There’s competition for places throughout the team, of course, but, based on the evidence of the last two warm-up fixtures in particular, played on consecutive days last weekend against Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, the four pundits who appeared in Monday’s episode of The Debate were broadly in agreement about much of the XI that will start at Old Trafford this coming Sunday.
As you will see in the video clip, Thornley thinks centre-backs Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane will pick up from where they left off against Rayo Vallecano and be paired together again for the first Premier League game.
“That might raise a few people’s eyebrows but I think they looked a really solid combination,” said Ben, defending his prediction.
While ex-defender May also feels Martinez will start, alongside either Varane or captain Harry Maguire, journalist Custis expects the latter to be given the nod after Ten Hag’s recent endorsement of the England international.
“After the backing he’s had from the manager as captain, and if he’s fit, I would find it odd if Maguire doesn’t start instead of Varane,” said Custis.
“He [Maguire] played through injuries last season and always made himself available. You look at that as character and think, is that not what the club needs in the centre there?
“If he can stay free of injury, he can prove a lot of people wrong because in his first season [at the club], he was as good a centre-half as United have had since Rio [Ferdinand] and [Nemanja] Vidic. People forget that.”
Dawson concurred with his fellow United correspondent, saying: “I think he’ll pick Maguire and Martinez, I think he values that balance of having a left-footer and a right-footer in there.
“I think Luke Shaw will be first choice left-back but as he didn’t play at all over the weekend, I think it will be Tyrell Malacia [for the Brighton game].”
Thornley’s back five also features the new signing on the left. As for the other full-back berth, he said, “Diogo Dalot seems to have made that [right-back] position his own. The obvious choice in goal is David De Gea, although I thought Tom Heaton did extremely well [in Sunday’s game] and is a more than able deputy.”
As for midfield, the panel predicted that two of the three places would be filled by new signing Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes, with the main point of difference being whether Fred or Scott McTominay will play as a holding midfielder.
Finally, in attack, the pundits tipped the three forwards with the most pre-season minutes in their legs – Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho – to all start when our Premier League campaign kicks off at 14:00 BST on Sunday.
Who do you think will be in the XI against Brighton? You can enter your line-up now by playing United Predictions in the app – and edit it later, until 90 minutes before kick-off, if you change your mind after Ten Hag’s pre-match press conference.
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