Injuries set to force Rafa into some big changes at Man Utd – here’s three he could make

After a last gap defeat last time out, Newcastle face a daunting trip to Old Trafford to take on Jose Mourinho’s side, who themselves will be desperate to get their own league form back on track.

We go into this one with some untimely injury concerns however, with three key players set to be missing for our trip to Manchester.

Midfield maestro Mikel Merino is out with a back injury, Atsu is major doubt after aggravating a thigh injury on international duty and likewise Jamaal Lascelles, who also looks likely miss out after struggling to overcome the knock against Bournemouth.

So will injuries mean Rafa again tweaks his formation after going with 4-4-2 last time out? Let’s analyse some potential team line ups.

3-4-2-1

Elliot – Mbemba, Lejeune, Clark – Yedlin, Hayden, Shelvey, Manquillo –  Ritchie, Perez – Joselu



This formation has been used very successfully by teams like Chelsea, as switching to this system helping them towards the title last year. It would certain be a surprise to Mourinho though, but a possible risk to experiment with something so new at a place like Old Trafford?

We would have three centre halves, with the capable attacking full backs Yedlin and Manquillo just ahead of them almost making up a midfield four with Shelvey and Hayden. It would give Ritchie and Perez more licence to roam from their usual slots to then try and get forward and support Joselu on the break. It would be interesting to see, however it seems a risk Rafa is unlikely to take.

Paddy Power have us down at 12/1 to win on Saturday (see here to download the Paddy Power app), highlighting the uphill task we clearly face if we want to come away with three points from this one, however you have to have that added bit of optimism that we could get something from the game when Rafa Benitez is involved.

5-3-2

Elliot – Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Mbemba, Ritchie – Hayden, Shelvey, Diame –  Gayle, Joselu

A formation that seems to be in vogue with lots of teams at the moment, with a good example of it being used to great effect being Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur. We of course don’t have anywhere near the personnel of Spurs, but with two of our more creative players in Merino and Atsu missing, beefing up the defence but having two up top may cause Man United problems at both ends?

Big calls would then need to be made up front, at full back and in midfield as the rest of the side almost picks itself.

This formation would be an interesting change of role for Matt Ritchie, with a role at left wing back something he has not tried at NUFC. The industrious left-footed winger did start his career at Portsmouth at left back and his outstanding work rate is clear, so it may just suit him?

This formation would mean two up front and with Mitrovic thoroughly left out in the cold, it would likely mean continuing with a partnership of Gayle and Joselu – as we saw in the Bournemouth game. With Merino out but three in midfield in this system, Diame or Saivet would be the two options to take his place alongside Hayden and Shelvey.

4-2-3-1

Elliot – Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Manquillo – Hayden, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Aarons – Joselu

A formation usually adopted by Benitez and what he is likely to revert to. Playing 4-4-2, we were a bit too open against Bournemouth despite a good first half display. This system hasn’t always helped us offensively, but it’s a more solid formation that has tended to make us difficult to beat.

Clark would come in for Lascelles and Perez perhaps resort to the number ten role due to his work rate that is likely to be favoured by Benitez in a game we’ll have so little of the ball in.

The big call is who to replace Atsu and although I would love to see Aarons given a run in the side, this could be the chance for Jacob Murphy has been waiting for. He has been disappointing so far but he won’t get many better chances than now to finally begin to claim a stake in the starting XI. Given the way he’s looked like a rabbit in the headlights on the odd occasion he’s came on, I’m wondering if Rafa may hand Aarons a surprise start?

 

Let us know your thoughts. What team and formation would you like to see this weekend with Lascelles, Merino and Atsu all likely to be missing?

(Fancy writing for us? Send any articles/ideas over to us at [email protected] & we’ll get back to you!)

About Simon Riddlesden

Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.

23 thoughts on “Injuries set to force Rafa into some big changes at Man Utd – here’s three he could make

  1. Simon, cheers, what ever formation we go with it’ll be an uphill battle. Sure it will be 4231 and I would love to see Mitro start, but pretty sure Rafa won’t trust him against Manure, too big a game.

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  2. well things might be looking up in our chase for Tosun,toon reps met in London last week now Besiktas’ head of transfers Ahmet Nur Cebi will fly to England next week for transfer talks over Newcastle United target Cenk Tosun.is there hope maybe??,if Rafa knows cash is coming his way it could be

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  3. I am in need of help. Can someone please explain to me wtf Livermore has ever done to warrant a place in the England side? If he can get a game then I imagine Rob Lee could still give it a go!

    Oh and Ireland have been hammered. Good!

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  4. Stuart79:
    I am in need of help. Can someone please explain to me wtf Livermore has ever done to warrant a place in the England side? If he can get a game then I imagine Rob Lee could still give it a go!

    Oh and Ireland have been hammered. Good!

    cannot help you on that one,i dont know how he gets game for his club never mind England

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  5. Stuart79:
    I am in need of help. Can someone please explain to me wtf Livermore has ever done to warrant a place in the England side? If he can get a game then I imagine Rob Lee could still give it a go!

    Oh and Ireland have been hammered. Good!

    I am not even sure who he is. Did he play for Spurs at one time? Most of the games I see involve the top 6 or NUFC and this Livermore dude never got my attention, so I don’t really know who he is. He is the Danny Guthrie of England to me.

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  6. Stuart: where would Livermore rank on my sliding scale of shittness. I have one in my head and it is for NUFC players because I am most familiar with them and I use it to compare with other teams. The midfield on a 10 point system is, with 1 being the worst, and 4 being a non-entity:

    Jenas – 4
    Guthrie – 3
    Gosling – 2
    Amdy Faye – minus 100

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  7. Ireland fucked up. Hmm.
    Stewie – Dont like Ireland then?!

    Might as well be Livermore in the side because England has sod all talent in that department.

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  8. icedog:
    well things might be looking up in our chase for Tosun,toon reps met in London last week now Besiktas’ head of transfers Ahmet Nur Cebi will fly to England next week for transfer talks over Newcastle United target Cenk Tosun.is there hope maybe??,if Rafa knows cash is coming his way it could be

    Ice, you are an angel.

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  9. shamrock:
    Ireland fucked up. Hmm.
    Stewie – Dont like Ireland then?!

    Might as well be Livermore in the side because England has sod all talent in that department.

    personally I have nothing against ROI but I was in a pub in Dublin once when England were playing and it was pretty obviously they didn’t like us and wanted us to get hammered. I’m also taken a dislike to their all of a sudden braveness when it comes to Brexit. All of a sudden they’re making threats to us and it’s threats they can’t deliver. They should concentrate on persuading the EU that common sense is better than ideology – that would help them the best.

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  10. Well I’m sad for ROI, would of been nice to see them get there .

    Oh and I said it last week Liverpoor, not a clue how he got picked.

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  11. Stuart79: personally I have nothing against ROI but I was in a pub in Dublin once when England were playing and it was pretty obviously they didn’t like us and wanted us to get hammered. I’m also taken a dislike to their all of a sudden braveness when it comes to Brexit. All of a sudden they’re making threats to us and it’s threats they can’t deliver. They should concentrate on persuading the EU that common sense is better than ideology – that would help them the best.

    Fair enough bud, different horses and all that. I think being close neighbours to a side that always has more success is bound to cast envious eyes. Add to that the history including England fans tearing Lansdown Road apart in the early 90’s and chucking stuff around probably did not help the relationship.

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  12. I would just give up on Joselu. I have seen enough. He can’t shoot, he can’t head the ball. Rafa likes him because he “trains well” but he doesn’t translate that to Saurday or Sunday afternoons.

    Give Nutter Mitro another go. At least if we lose 1-0 to Bournemouth or Brighton it might be entertaining.

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  13. It’s funny listening to other fans. I’ve spoke. To a few Liverpool and Man Utd fans and they all said that they think NUFC could be the next threat to them if we get bought by PCP. Although they think she’s worth £20b so that’s probably why… Interesting though, that they think we could seriously compete with the right resources.

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  14. Olly: is Mourinho ever happy anymore? He has become like the 75 year old man who keeps your ball if you kick it in his garden.

    Actually, that probably doesn’t happen any more as kids are obsessed with gaming. So he has become like this virtual 75 year old man who keeps your virtual ball as you virtually kick it into he virtual garden.

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  15. It does baffle me these clubs that sack their managers with no replacement in place – or some kind of plan to get the replacement in. Both Everton & Sunderland are making a right pigs ear of it – and WH only took Moyes on short term – are the players really getting behind him if he looses his first few games?!.

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  16. Sharpy , not sure Moyes would inspire me, he looks permanently depressed, add into it the fact he’s short term and it’s hardly incentivising .

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  17. The current state of affairs in English football is depressing. The best players and the best managers are all foreign along with the best owners.

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  18. kimtoon:
    Sharpy , not sure Moyes would inspire me, he looks permanently depressed, add into it the fact he’s short term and it’s hardly incentivising .

    Kim – not a chance, and he’s a manager who is more known for failures than success now. His time at Scum & Man Utd have had a hugely detrimental impact on his career. He’s the Scottish McClaren, and WH said he’s the best available – but what they mean is the one prepared to take a short term contract in a desperate attempt to save his career. It’s all or bust for him at WH now imo – he fails and I don’t see him getting another chance personally.

    Like him or not, fat Sam is a far better manager and has a successful air about him – in that he keeps clubs in the PL. He hasn’t gone to Everton coz he wants a longer term contract than just until the end of the season – and why wouldn’t he?!. He believes he’s better than that and worth more of a chance – why should he help them out, only for them to bring someone else in next season?!.

    But Sunderland. They have approached the NI manager in case the Barnsley manager knocks them back – hells bloody bells.

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  19. georgio:
    The current state of affairs in English football is depressing. The best players and the best managers are all foreign along with the best owners.

    Georgio – I know what you mean, but I disagree to an extent.
    We are a large section of a fairly small Island in a big world. Players wise I think we do ok.
    I have to be honest, I usually don’t like England friendlies and these to performance wise weren’t great. But what I liked was that Southgate is bringing in younger players. I will never understand the idea of Livermore, Cork or Maguire getting an England cap. But to use these friendlies to introduce the likes of Pickford, Lotus-Cheek and Abrahams worked for me.
    Too many previous managers have come in and changed nothing. The likes of Whilshire, Smalling, Walcott and players like that have always seemed to be guaranteed a place and it’s felt so stale for years.
    We need to progress as a National side and follow the lead of the likes of Germany by playing young up and coming players rather than bang average sick notes.

    Managers wise, I agree. But English managers only seem to manage in England – they need to get away and broaden the ideas, management skills and techniques.

    Owners wise – yeah, we aren’t ever competing with the wealth of China, America or UAE.

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