15:00 (BST), Saturday 21st October, Kirklees Stadium (Huddersfield, England)
The fairy-tale start is now officially over for the Terriers and the grim reality facing them is that they now have a battle on their hands to stay ahead of the chasing pack in the lower reaches of the Premier League table. Having failed to win a Premiership game since the second week of the season, the last two games have seen them ship six goals without reply as Tottenham and then Swansea beat them comfortably. The Terriers are looking to record their first win against United since 1952.
The Red Devils are unlikely to be the most exciting side to watch in Manchester this season, let alone the Premier League. Jose Mourinho’s pragmatic approach has come in for criticism recently despite remaining unbeated across three competitions. Having only conceded six goals from all their games so far, many people will still focus on the ‘goals scored’ column at the end of this weekend.
Last Time Out
Swansea 2 – 0 Huddersfield Town (Premier League)
Last weekend’s fixture against Swansea was a solid performance overall from the Terriers but for two individual errors which gifted the game away. The first – and potentially most fatal – error came in the 27th minute when Tom Ince blazed a golden opportunity high over the crossbar. Ince is a player who has not yet settled into the Premiership and this miss could see him soon sweating for his place in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
The usually reliable Jonas Lössl was culpable for the second error when his poor clearance left Tammy Abraham with a simple conversion. It may not see Lössl’s place come under threat but it could begin to erode any remaining confidence within the Terriers defence.
Benfica 0 – 1 Manchester United (Champions League)
In what is best described as a thoroughly professional performance, United exerted their dominance in their Champions League fixture against Benfica without collecting a four-goal haul. Everything about United looked measured and composed from the disciplined defensive shape to the way they meticulously worked openings at the opposite end of the pitch.
Marcus Rashford was the game’s star player. It was his 35-yard free-kick which left the 18-year-old Belgian keeper Mile Svilar fumbling the ball over his own goal-line. It was yet another anonymous game from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, though, whose early season form is becoming little more than a memory.
Huddersfield Town Lineup
Philip Billing (ankle), Kasey Palmer (hamstring), Michael Hefele (Achilles), Jon Gorenc Stankovic (knee), Collin Quaner (calf) and Steve Mounie (heel) are all injured and unavailable for David Wagner this weekend. Mounie is thought to be nearing a return but is unlikely to feature against United. Chris Löwe returns and should be the only change to last weeks defeat against Swansea.
Manchester United Lineup
Paul Pogba (hamstring), Marouane Fellaini (knee), Phil Jones (knock), Marcos Rojo (knee), Michael Carrick (knock) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee) are all expected to remain unavailable for Manchester United side.
Mourinho’s injury concerns are slowly mounting as both Eric Bailly (knock) and Marcus Rashford (knee) could join the names on the Physios’ to-do list. This could see Anthony Martial and Juan Mata back in the team, with a first potential Premiership start for Victor Lindelöf who has only one minute of Premiership action under his belt despite playing all three Champions League games.
Key Battle: Aaron Mooy vs Ander Herrera
If Huddersfield are to take anything from this game, they will be relying on an ex-Manchester City player – Aaron Mooy – to get them there. Having now fully recovered from his expedition down-under in the World Cup qualifiers, Mooy will be primed to drive his team forwards in the clash with Manchester United. With United missing several key midfielders and having played an extra game in midweek, this midfield battle could well favour the Australian.
Ander Herrera was the United fans’ player of last season and, having just found his way back into the side this season, he has done little to rekindle the form which earned him the supporters adulation. There is no reason to doubt that he will be unable to reach the same heights again. However, the United midfield is a competitive area of the team and injured players will soon be returning to fitness, factors which could make this an important match for the Spanish player.
Short-Term Gain or Long-Term Risk
It’s no secret that Huddersfield have badly missed the services of Steve Mounie in attack after he picked up a heel injury earlier in the season. Having been judged 50/50 to play against Swansea last weekend, David Wagner took the decision not to risk his main striker.
A week later and Wagner is presented with a very similar question. He needs to balance a necessity for goals against the risk of pushing his recovering striker too hard in his rehabilitation. While Mounie is highly unlikely to start the game, any minutes off the bench could speed up his recovery. The pattern of the match could be a deciding factor on whether the forward gets a return to action on Saturday.
Rashford vs Martial
In a manner similar to the way that great opponents often push each other into achieving bigger and better feats, the battle for a place on United’s left wing has also ignited a healthy competition between two young wingers. With Marcus Rashford an inch ahead of Anthony Martial on individual performance, both players have a strong case to plead in who should be picked to start any given game.
Martial has shown a clinical eye for goal, though, and, having formed a strong partnership with Romelu Lukaku, it may be time for his manager to give the French international a start in the Premier League. What’s working in Mourinho’s favour at present is the fact that the player left on the bench is often able to make a dramatic impact on the game when they do take to the field.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 0-3 Manchester United
With Huddersfield lacking the attacking presence of Steve Mounie at the top of the pitch, they have only scored two goals since their opening day win over Palace. Given that Manchester United’s defence are in miserly form, there’s little chance of the home side taking all three points. The number of goals United score could well depend on when they score first, with a comfortable victory looking all but guaranteed.
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