Sunday 12 March 2017

United set for strikerless system at Stamford Bridge

United's plans for Monday's FA Cup tie at Chelsea have been thrown into chaos after devastating injury news.

The Reds will make the trip to Antonio Conte's champions-elect without a recognised striker for the quarter-final showdown.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic begins a three-game ban for elbowing Tyrone Mings and Wayne Rooney is sidelined.

The United and England captain misses out with a head injury after he collided with Phil Jones in training.

Without the 26-goal Swede, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were expected to fill the void and feature prominently for United at the Bridge. 

After both suffering stop-start seasons so far, the young duo had been touted to step up to shine with a place in a Wembley semi-final at stake. 

There were rumours of their absence when the rest of the squad were pictured leaving Stockport station without them, and it later emerged the pair have been sidelined with illness.

When the draw pitted United against Chelsea away from home, it was the toughest tie possible and the biggest of asks.

Everything points to a win for the west London side: without the rigours of European football, they've stayed fresh and are champions-elect having surged ten points clear in the league.
The Reds made a 4,000 mile round trip to Russia on Thursday, we've a wretched record against the hosts  and Chelsea are not a side you want to face when you're tired.

Quite simply, there's no better team in the country at present. 

It's no co-incidence that they've suffered no injuries as a result of playing once a week, with United's schedule clogged by domestic and Europa League commitments.

Zlatan's suspension left us with an uphill struggle and this trio of injuries and illness suggests it's now almost mission impossible.

Jose's carefully-constructed gameplan will now need a rapid re-think, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan a possible option to move into the middle as a 'false nine'. 

In that selection, Juan Mata would likely start on the right and either the hard-working Jesse Lingard or Ashley Young wide left.

Alternatively, Marouane Fellaini could be deployed as an emergency centre-forward as he has been in the past under Louis van Gaal.

Luke Shaw was rested for the trip to Rostov but travelled with the squad, with Tim Fosu-Mensah and Eric Bailly also among the 19-man party. 

Travelling United players: De Gea, Romero, Henderson, Valencia, Darmian, Fosu-Mensah, Jones, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Shaw, Carrick, Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba, Lingard, Young. 

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