Manchester United return to action on Saturday afternoon when they welcome relegation-threatened Swansea City to Old Trafford. Following the recent two-week international break, manager Jose Mourinho could be without a number of first-team players due to knocks picked up whilst representing their countries.
Academy graduate Scott McTominay, who made his international debut for Scotland in their recent 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, was forced to withdraw from the squad due to injury and missed the following clash with Hungary, making him a doubt for the visit of the Swans, this weekend.
The Scot could be joined on the sidelines by second-choice goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who was forced off the pitch in the first half of Argentina’s disastrous 6-1 defeat at the hands of Spain after receiving a blow to his knee.
Mourinho, however, is expected to welcome back two key players, with midfielder Ander Herrera and defender Marcos Rojo both set to make a return to action at the weekend. The former, who has been out of action since sustaining an injury during the Champions League first-leg clash against Sevilla, has declared himself fit to play, whilst the latter made his first appearance in over a month in Argentina’s defeat to Spain.
United go into Saturday’s clash in good domestic form, having won four of their last five Premier League matches, with their most recent being the 2-1 victory over arch-rivals Liverpool three weeks ago. The Reds, however, have since suffered elimination from the European stage and have come in for heavy criticism for their style of play, with their recent FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton and Hove Albion unable to mask the team’s poor performance.
It will be interesting to see which starting XI Mourinho opts for, having dropped high-profile duo Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez to the bench for that victory over the Seagulls. The France international, however, put in a fine performance for his country in midweek and curled home a sublime free-kick against Russia, whilst McTominay’s knock could see the 25-year-old reclaim a starting berth. Mourinho, who was publicly critical of the level of his side’s performance against Brighton, will demand an improved showing this time around and may look to the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard for added pace and impetus.
Up front, Romelu Lukaku will be looking to maintain his red-hot scoring form for the Reds, having scored 10 goals in his 14 appearances since the turn of the year. Currently occupying second place in the league table, United are two points ahead of nearest challengers Liverpool, having played a game less and have the chance to strengthen their hold on the runners-up spot. Swansea, meanwhile, have improved under manager Carlos Carvalhal but despite sitting in 14th place, are just three points ahead of the relegation zone and will prove to be stubborn opposition at Old Trafford.
With the league title out of reach and the Champions League out of question for another season, United must ensure that they keep hold of second place, starting with victory on Saturday, although there will be just as much focus on the performance, as there will be on the result.