Schneiderlin worthier than Mkhitaryan of start at Bournemouth
Everyone is fascinated to see how Jose Mourinho fares as Manchester United manager – was what happened at Chelsea last season a temporary blip or a portent of a permanent decline?
The excitement will not begin at 13:30 on Sunday when his first Premier League fixture in charge at Bournemouth begins, with the Red Devils 5/6 to triumph and the Cherries 19/5 to spoil his initiation, but an hour or so earlier when his initial top-flight starting XI is revealed to the world.
In Chris Smalling’s absence, you would expect the back five to be identical to the one which restricted Leicester to a single goal in the Community Shield.
David de Gea is irreplaceable in goal, Eric Bailly and Daley Blind linked up encouragingly in front of him, left-back Luke Shaw was a target of Mourinho’s at Chelsea and Antonio Valencia showed his worth at right-back by setting up the winner for Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Wembley.
Assuming the Portuguese boss deploys a 4-2-3-1 as he did for the majority of pre-season, the midfield two is a point of contention with record signing Paul Pogba suspended. He went for Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini against the Foxes, yet the Belgian was at fault for the goal conceded.
Of the two obvious options to replace him, Ander Herrera was brought on earlier than Morgan Schneiderin at Wembley, though that was because he replaced the more metronomic Carrick. The Frenchman appears a more natural fit alongside the 35-year-old than the Spaniard, who has stylistic similarities.
Ibrahimovic surely isn’t going anywhere up front after securing silverware on his debut and, given how big a statement it would be to drop captain Wayne Rooney on the opening weekend, you would imagine that the skipper will at least start behind the Swede even if he doesn’t finish there.
In that situation, do you start £27m recruit Henrikh Mkhitaryan out wide or integrate him gradually from the bench? The latter option is probably the most sensible as it would be incredibly harsh to remove Anthony Martial or Jesse Lingard from the flanks.
Martial was arguably the 20-time champions’ best outfield performer last term and is one of their greatest assets so should retain a spot for as long as his form persists.
Lingard meanwhile might not warrant inclusion ahead of two of Rooney, Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata long term, but he is worth his berth at the moment if fit having played a huge part in earning his side two trophies with goals in his most recent two competitive outings.
As well as not finding room for Mkhitaryan, Mata and Memphis Depay, this line-up would necessitate using Marcus Rashford, whose 11 Premier League appearances to date have all been from minute one, as a substitute.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.