Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leads Manchester United into their Premier League opener against Crystal Palace with 11 players doubtful. United boss Solskjaer faces a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s Old Trafford clash thanks to the delayed start to the season.
The Red Devils, like neighbours Manchester City, were given special dispensation to start their season late after both teams were involved in European competition.
United reached the semi-finals of the Europa League before being beaten by Sevilla, while City were knocked out of the Champions League by Lyon at the quarter-final stage.
As a result both sides are kicking off their Premier League campaigns a week later than the rest of their rivals, allowing for a 30-day gap between the end of one season and the start of another.
And it has got Solskjaer scratching his head over his team to face Palace.
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Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Fred, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Eric Bailly only returned to training with their United team-mates on Monday, giving them precious little time to get up to speed ahead of Saturday’s teatime clash.
Bruno Fernandes – who was so instrumental as the Red Devils surged to a third-placed finish last season – only returned to Carrington at the weekend, so is barely ahead of his teammates in his preparation.
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Mason Greenwood has been training on his own since he was sent home from international duty in disgrace after breaching Covid-19 rules by sneaking a woman into England’s team hotel.
So while the striker has been knuckling down since his return, the fact he hasn’t trained with teammates may have left him somewhat undercooked in terms of tactical systems and patterns of play.
Defender Alex Tuanzebe is definitely out as he continues his rehabilitation from a long-term injury, while backup goalkeeper Sergio Romero has not yet linked up with his teammates.
Phil Jones is another player who has returned to training, but he is unlikely to be given the nod to face Palace, according to the Manchester Evening News.
None of the above players were picked for last Saturday’s pre-season friendly against Aston Villa, who beat United 1-0.
Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford were in action at Villa Park and looked nailed-on to start on Saturday, while summer signing Donny van de Beek made an impressive debut against Villa, playing the full 90 minutes.
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However, it remains to be seen how the £40m man will fit into United’s midfield if Fernandes and Pogba are deemed ready to start.
Luke Shaw played against Villa but faces competition for the left-back spot from Brandon Williams, while Solskjaer has a decision to make over David de Gea, with the keeper under pressure from rival Dean Henderson.
Daniel James, Scott McTominay and Jesse Lingard will also be vying for a start on Saturday after starting against Villa.
Meanwhile, Victor Lindelof and Anthony Martial will be assessed after both went on international duty with Sweden and France respectively.
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