Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur was a massive result for several reasons. For one, it was the first time that United been able to hold onto a lead and win a league game at home since the 4-1 win over Leicester City in September. They also did it without conceding a late goal, something which has become disturbingly common of late after Stoke City, Arsenal and Everton all pegged Jose Mourinho’s side back in the latter stages of recent league games. It also dragged United back to within six points of 4th-placed Manchester City, which was of huge importance, given how the Portuguese’s side had fallen so far behind the Premier League pace setters over the last few months.
Of course, the win brought with it a few pieces of bad news; Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored his first goal at Old Trafford but sustained an ankle injury late on that will rule him out of action until Boxing Day, and Antonio Valencia’s fifth booking of the season means he will also miss out against Crystal Palace on Wednesday night. With that in mind, here’s how we think Mourinho will set out his side:
David De Gea starts in goal, unsurprisingly. Valencia’s suspension means that Matteo Darmian should be shifted to his natural place at right-back, with Daley Blind coming in at left-back. Both Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones have impressed in the centre of defence of late, and should retain their places.
In midfield, Michael Carrick will be closely monitored, and will either start here or against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba have both been in good form, and will surely be selected.
Mkhitaryan’s injury means Juan Mata should return to the side, having been absent from the starting line-up for the last three games. Zlatan Ibrahimovic seems to have shaken off the dry spell that plagued him earlier on in the season, and has scored seven goals in his last eight appearances in all competitions, so it’s incredibly unlikely that Mourinho will drop him for Wayne Rooney. The United captain didn’t take part in Sunday’s win over Spurs but will surely be utilised again soon, due to the busy festive period.
Alongside him will likely be Marcus Rashford, who has been absent from the starting line-up of late, too. Anthony Martial struggled against Spurs, and was substituted in the second half, so Mourinho may be keen to keep his two young, attacking talents fresh.