Come 3pm on Saturday Manchester United will play their first home game in three weeks since the loss to Southampton. Their Opponents? Leicester City.
United will have an extra motive to beat Leicester after losing 5-3 at the King Power Stadium earlier in the season. However if United are to get their revenge on the foxes the must improves on their recent performances. The Red Devils have only scored five goals in their last six games, a stat which Van Gaal must look at in embarrassment considering the attacking threat he has at his disposal.
Leicester City currently sit bottom of the Premier League, three points from safety. However despite their league position, the Foxes have won three of their last four games, impressively beating Tottenham Hotspurs 2-1 in the FA Cup.
The visitors will be without Matty James (banned), Riyad Mahrez (AFCON) and both Peter Schmeichel and Chris Wood, who are both injured. Matthew Upson could make his Premier League debut for Leicester after recovering from a foot injury sustained during pre-season. United will be without Michael Carrick who is set to be out for around four weeks, whilst both Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans could make a return.
Louis Van Gaal’s team selection have been somewhat unpredictable throughout the season as he mixes between both the 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 diamond formation. Both fans and media outlets have become disgruntled over Van Gaal’s tactics, claiming there is no consistent base around the team with the backline and midfield constantly changing. Although injuries have not helped Van Gaal’s cause, he now has close to a fully fit squad and this is the perfect opportunity for him to focus his tactics around one formation that facilitates the best players at Manchester United. I feel that that a 4-4-2 Diamond formation is the go to formation for Van Gaal as it is defensively solid and offers a fluid transition between defence and attack.
If Van Gaal is to go with this formation, I expect David De Gea to start in goal. At the back Rafael is fit for selection, and could potentially make a start. The Right-back has only made nine appearance for Manchester United, however this could be a chance to build up game time and make an impression on Louis Van Gaal. At CB I expect Phil Jones to continue his run in the Manchester United team, partnered by Rojo who can hopefully carry on from his impressive performance against Cambridge. At left-back Luke Shaw should look to solidify his place in the team and build up his match fitness.
The midfield will be vital in this game as they will have to offer both defensive cover for the United defenders as well as helping in the transition between the defence and attack. Therefore it is key that Van Gaal picks a balanced midfield. I expect Daley Blind to take the place of the injured Michael Carrick and slot in as the midfields Anchor Man. He will have the key role of linking both the defence and attack, as well as allowing the more creative players to push further up the pitch. To the right of the diamond, twenty-five year old Ander Herrera should start. The midfielder has been overlooked many times by Van Gaal this season, however when he has played he has an impact on the midfield, helping to control the possession and tempo of the game. At the left of the Diamond Angel Di Maria will be encouraged to play like he did in the reverse fixture. The Argentine has not played up to his usual standards since coming back from injury and Van Gaal will be looking for a much better performance from him.
Behind the strikers I expect Juan Mata to play. When pushing forward Leicester often leave gaps between both the midfielder and the defenders. This means that Juan Mata will have the role of finding gaps between the midfielders and defenders and playing decisive passes towards the forwards. Falcao and Rooney would be my preferred choice of striker. I believe that Rooney will play as a deep lying forward, helping to drag defenders out of position allowing for runs to be made from the attacking players. The Captain, who was not involved in the FA Cup tie against Cambridge offers leadership as well as quality on the ball for Louis Van Gaal’s side. Alongside him, I can see the fans favourite, Radamel Falcao make his eight start in the Premier League. If the Colombian is to secure a move to Old Trafford he must start showing his worth.
All-in-all I expect United to control this game, and come out 2-0 victors.