Manchester United Potential XI vs Derby County

Credit: Lineup Builder
Credit: Lineup Builder /

Amid Premier League struggles, Louis van Gaal looks to the FA Cup for solace

Manchester United and Louis van Gaal are struggling mightily and will look for relief with the FA Cup fourth round tie against Derby County.

Against Southampton, at Old Trafford, the Red Devils fell 1-0 with a late Charlie Austin goal off a set piece. The manager was forced to start Cameron Borthwick-Jackson in place of the injured Ashley Young, who is now expected to miss six to eight weeks following groin surgery. With the team not playing cohesively and the match against a lower league team providing the opportunity for fringe players to start, van Gaal could rotate his squad for the match.

In goal, there will be no rotation. David de Gea will start and continue his dominance in English football. Though he will likely see few shots his way, supporters can have confidence in the Spanish keeper to make critical stops when called upon.

On defense, the major question mark will be whether or not Matteo Darmian starts for Manchester United. The Italian full-back suffered a head injury in the match against Southampton and was subsequently sent to the hospital. However, after offering a positive message the next day, there’s a chance he’ll return in time for the Cup tie. It will depend on if he can rejoin the team for training before the match, but were Darmian not to start, Paddy McNair would be the best bet to start in his place. The young Irishman has shown signs of potential, particularly in relief during the last match with bursting runs forward.

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To round out the defense, expect van Gaal to stick with Borthwick-Jackson, Chris Smalling, and Daley Blind. The center-backs  and left-back are the only remaining healthy options at the Dutchman’s disposal with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo still sidelined.

As the midfield-duo, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger should start together. The German midfielder was expected to start last weekend but was reduced to watching in the stands. Assuming he is at full fitness for the match, Schweinsteiger should replace Marouane Fellaini in the starting lineup. Despite a couple of cases of physical dominance, the Belgian big man doesn’t have the technical ability that Manchester United will likely rely on to dominate the match.

Across the attacking midfield, Anthony Martial and Ander Herrera have all but locked up their starting spots. The French teenager has been the Red Devils’ only outlet valve from defense at times this season with his pace influential in starting counterattacks. Herrera has yet to hit his stride this year, but he’s the best option to start in the no. 10 role.

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On the right side, van Gaal can choose between Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, and Adnan Januzaj. All three were on the pitch at the end of the last match – Lingard started, Mata came on for Fellaini, and Januzaj replaced Borthwick-Jackson to add an attacking element. Based on the young Belgian’s involvement in conceding the decisive goal – giving up the free kick – it figures that the choice will be down to Lingard or Mata. The Spaniard has looked the more dangerous player of the two, and with the FA Cup match crucial for the manager’s job security, Mata is the better option.

Finally, at striker, Wayne Rooney will get the start. The captain’s fine form sputtered against Southampton, and he’ll be hungry to get back on the scorer’s sheet.

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The Derby match would normally present a chance for younger players to get involved, but the pressure on van Gaal to win could force him to go with the experienced veterans.