As we approach the international break, all Premier League managers will be hoping for no fresh player injuries while plotting their tactics for the domestic fixture return. It will be an eagerly anticipated resumption for Manchester United fans, as the Red Devils travel to Anfield for one of the seasons highest profile matches. It marks the continuation of a tough October for Jose Mourinho, who will be looking to continue his sides unbeaten run over the next five games across three different competitions, at the end of which, United’s season will begin to take shape.
League clashes against huge rivals Liverpool and Mourinho’s former club Chelsea, both away from home, are then topped off by the relatively easier game against Burnley at Old Trafford. Sandwiched in between those games are two big cup ties against neighbours City in the EFL Cup and Fenerbache in the Europa League. Mourinho has had enough games to analyse his group of players, but it seems apparent that maybe he does not know his best eleven.
The early season persistence to play Marouane Fellaini in the holding midfield role slowed United’s pace and penetration in the centre of the pitch, which in turn stifled Paul Pogba’s attacking influence and also drew Wayne Rooney back into a deeper role, limiting his effectiveness as a striker. The inclusion of Ander Herrera now playing in that holding role is allowing Pogba, and the revitalised Juan Mata, to dictate the attacking play for United, supplying slick passing and faster movement in the final third. Whilst Rooney has suffered directly from this, as his place is taken by Zlatan Ibrahimović, there is no doubting that United have made much improvement as an attacking unit due to the protection and key passing provided by Herrera, whose form has earned him his first international call-up for Spain.
But with other options in midfield that include Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger and the aforementioned Marouane Fellaini, Mourinho will have a tough task preventing squad unrest with so much competition for a starting berth.
However, the player selection in defence is more straightforward for the Portuguese manager as a settled back four and goalkeeper give the side a solid foundation that is now complimented by the performing midfield trio.
The final third offers Jose the biggest team selection headache, with a wealth of options at his disposal. Marcus Rashford’s consistent form makes him an almost certain starter alongside the evergreen Zlatan, which leaves one space to be filled from a list of players that include captain Rooney, Jesse Lingard, Antony Martial, Ashley Young, Memphis Depay, Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
It’s clear to see there are too many cooks for the United broth and whilst Mourinho’s international squad are away representing their country, the task at hand is for the manager to assess the players that are vital to his plans and formulate the recipe for success, otherwise this coming October will be more trick than treat for United fans.