Manchester United should consider new right-wing partnership against Newcastle United – Dominic Booth
A new right-wing combination
His absence from the Arsenal game on Monday meant Axel Tuanzebe stepped in — manfully — at left-back, while Ashley Young switched to right-back with mixed consequences. United thought they’d sorted their full-back slots out when Wan-Bissaka arrived in the summer, but if he’s not well enough to play at St James’ Park, it could mean a new right-wing combination is unleashed.
Diogo Dalot hasn’t enjoyed the most auspicious start to the season whenever he’s been given the chance, but he really should play at right-back if Wan-Bissaka is unavailable. And you have to think he can offer a threat to Newcastle, who are likely to sit deep and allow United to push forward. Against AZ Alkmaar, Dalot was an outlet but his final ball was lacking.
That must improve and it may do if Solskjaer fields Mason Greenwood on the right, cutting inside on his left foot. Even if Wan-Bissaka is there, Greenwood should play on that flank and with Dalot overlapping him, it could be a winning formula.
Big decisions for Solskjaer in midfield
Either Ole Gunnar Solskjaer becomes ruthless and starts wielding the axe — with midfield trio Nemanja Matic, Andreas Pereira and Fred all struggling — or he hands players a final chance to step up to the mark.
His hand may again be forced, with Paul Pogba ruled out as the club try to treat that pesky ankle injury, but if he deems the trio unselectable at the moment, he must turn to youth in the shape of James Garner.
Garner is that rarest of things at United right now; an in-form midfielder who has been finding the net with regularity. He’s scored six goals in seven appearances for the club’s Under-23s this season, usually wearing the captain’s armband in the process. He’s surely shown enough ability and character to merit at least a place on the first team bench — yet he was omitted from the 18 against AZ Alkmaar.
Solskjaer has championed youth, now he has the chance to make a decision to back up his words.
It won’t be pretty
With Newcastle second to bottom in the Premier League, fresh off the back of a 5-0 shellacking by Leicester and having only scored four goals this season, United won’t get a better chance to end their away day hoodoo. A run of 10 games on the road without victory is far too long for a club of United’s standing and it’s come to the point where Solskjaer‘s side must find a way, come what may.
United have only scored nine goals in seven league matches — and five since their opening day heroics against Chelsea — so this could turn into an ugly slug-fest in forecast torrential Tyneside rain.
It looks unlikely, given injuries and form, that United will piece together a coherent performance. But even so, they must grind out a win against one of the Premier League’s poorer sides.
All eyes will again be on Marcus Rashford, not just in terms of supplying the goals that United so desperately need, but in terms of proving he is fully fit.
Rashford’s goal drought has coincided with United’s own: he’s yet to score in open play since he did so versus Chelsea. But after hobbling off against West Ham, the England striker has looked to be carrying a slight knock. He wasn’t himself against Arsenal, though he looked a little sharper coming off the bench against Alkmaar.
With Martial out injured, United need Rashford firing like he was when Solskjaer was first appointed. For all the doubters about Rashford, that form was only six months ago. When fit, when in form and when full of confidence, he has the attributes to be United’s centre-forward.
Flanked by Daniel James and Greenwood, he really should be able to cause problems for Newcastle. But can he cope with the heavy work load he’s currently shouldering?
Set piece struggles
Another hoodoo that United seem strangely unable to end. Why can’t they score from set pieces?
Solskjaer has admitted that United haven’t been good enough from dead ball situations for a while now. But with Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay and others who ought to be dangerous in the air, corners should be providing more goals.
It’s part of the wider issue of goal-scoring at United right now. Newcastle’s back line may well be there for the taking and quite frankly United fans won’t care if it’s from set pieces or open play.