Here are five pertinent questions about the Manchester United starting XI ahead of the 2018 Emirates FA Cup campaign kicking off against Derby County at Old Trafford on Friday night…
Will Mourinho rotate the squad?
Probably, but the manager is not expected to make wholesale changes against a side that sits second in the Championship (he named a strong team to face fourth-placed Bristol City in the Carabao Cup last month). Following our busy schedule there are bound to be tired legs among the players and the full strength of the squad may be needed, but Jose was optimistic about the team’s freshness after the 2-0 league win at Everton earlier this week.
“It didn't look a performance of tired boys or the worst possible calendar that you gave us,” he told reporters.
“It looked a fresh performance.”
De Gea or Romero in goal?
Only Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic have made more appearances than David this season, so our much-praised keeper could have a well-earned rest in the FA Cup – just like he did for the League Cup defeat at Ashton Gate Stadium in December, when Sergio made his fifth start of the campaign.
Who will the full-backs be?
Antonio Valencia has been missing since suffering a
“December injury” (in the manager's words) in last month’s win at West Bromwich Albion, which led to Ashley Young filling in at right-back before receiving a three-match ban as a result of an off-the-ball incident against Southampton. Victor Lindelof then deputised admirably at Goodison Park and could retain that starting berth against Derby, although young Axel Tuanzebe is another option. He appeared off the bench on Monday and is highly rated by the manager.
Meanwhile, Luke Shaw has started our last three games at left-back and produced a series of encouraging displays, so he is presumably the favourite to begin Friday’s game beneath the lights. The other options include the versatile duo of Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind, who last started on 20 December.
Will it be a midfield three again?
Matic, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba all started in central midfield together at Everton on New Year’s Day to considerable acclaim, particularly after a dominant second-half performance that yielded two excellent goals. The latter was voted Man of the Match by fans and many suggested the formation inspired his influential performance.
Speaking about the display and positioning afterwards, Pogba said:
“We played aggressively but in a positive way, creating chances and, defensively, we were very good. It was a very good team performance. I moved a bit more forward in the second half and we did a good job.”
Who’s up front - Martial or Rashford?
Mourinho has rotated the speedy duo all season, usually picking one or the other to start on the left wing to good effect (they have scored nine goals each). After Lukaku picked up a head injury against Southampton, Anthony led the line at Everton and executed a superb finish past Jordan Pickford. Marcus replaced him on 77 minutes, so it will be fascinating to see which of the pair gets the nod to face Derby.
Jose is holding a press conference on Thursday afternoon when he could provide an update on Lukaku's availability. The team will be announced on Friday night at 19:00 GMT.
EARLY TEAM NEWS FROM DERBY
Rams manager Gary Rowett has admitted Wales international Joe Ledley is a doubt due to injury, but he is hopeful that ex-Red Tom Lawrence can overcome a back problem to play.
He has also hinted he will rotate due to the busy fixture list.
“I think every team will have a similar approach around the FA Cup. With such a heavily packed schedule around Christmas, it would be silly not to freshen up in one or two areas. But that’s not to say I will make 10 or 11 changes!”
'Is it an occasion? No! We're going there to do a job!' 💪— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) January 3, 2018
The boss sat down with the media earlier to look ahead to Friday night's @EmiratesFACup clash with @ManUtd at Old Trafford!
👉 https://t.co/QLYid9WBQk pic.twitter.com/MHkdcSyC9d