Manchester United take on Chelsea in the semi-finals of the FA Cup today (6pm kick-off) looking to book a Wembley showdown with Arsenal later this month. The Red Devils, hunting their first piece of silverware since the Europa League in 2016, have already beaten the Blues on three occasions this season.
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has several decisions to ponder over for his starting line-up on this occasion – not least in what formation he sets up his team.
The United boss has often started with three centre-backs against top opposition, having done so in the Premier League trip to Chelsea in February as well as against Manchester City and Liverpool.
But while that approach was so successful against the Londoners in their last meeting, the current form of his United team – having gone 19 games without defeat across all competitions with six wins from eight since the season’s restart – might mean he sticks with a more familiar system here.
Having used a 4-2-3-1 set-up in all of their last nine matches, and with no N’Golo Kante for Chelsea, Solskjaer is expected to back Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba to win the midfield battle.
Matic will replace Scott McTominay, as he did after an hour of Thursday’s 2-0 top-flight victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Bruno Fernandes, in the No 10 role, is then capable of dropping deeper to make it a 4-3-3 out of possession if necessary.
With left-back Luke Shaw ruled out by an ankle injury, Brandon Williams should be passed fit to return to the team after sustaining a head injury against Southampton.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who stepped in at Palace, should drop to the bench to allow Williams to make a third start of the season against Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, with today’s clash being a repeat of the 2018 FA Cup final, which United lost.
Another change sees Harry Maguire partnered by Eric Bailly rather than Victor Lindelof, with the Ivorian having started their last two FA Cup matches although he has not started in the league since starring in the 2-0 win away at Chelsea five months ago.
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Aaron Wan-Bissaka completes the back four at right-back, with Sergio Romero making up the defensive contingent in place of David de Gea.
The reliable Argentine dropped out of the team in the League Cup semi-finals against Manchester City but should be trusted here.
In front of the midfield is the usual front four of Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who has scored braces both of his appearances against the Blues this term.
Teenage forward Mason Greenwood has appeared tired in recent matches but after being withdrawn after an hour against Palace, should get the nod here.
Solskjaer said ahead of the clash: “He’s coped really well with the demands on him. We’ve managed him as well as we could.
“He’s come back from lockdown flying, the sharpness is there, he’s gained a few kilos and a lot of experience in his own abilities.
“So there are only two games left in the league, hopefully two in the FA Cup and three or four in the Europa League.
“He’ll be fine, no chance of a burnout, he’s been excellent.”
The Norwegian has also talked up Jesse Lingard ahead of the match but should back his in-form attack to blow Chelsea’s vulnerable defence away to allow him to make changes in the second half.
Predicted Man Utd XI to face Chelsea
(4-3-3): Romero; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Williams; Matic, Pogba; Greenwood, Fernandes, Martial; Rashford.
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