In his press conference ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League clash with Newcastle United, Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick said that only Paul Pogba was unavailable from his entire first-team squad.
Whether this is still true four days later – as the presser took place on Thursday – remains to be seen as the club continues to battle to contain Covid-19.
If it does hold, then the team selection for the trip to St. James’ Park will be the hardest that Rangnick will have faced in his short tenure at the helm.
It means that the likes of Edinson Cavani, Raphael Varane, and Anthony Martial will be added to the list of possible selections.
Varane is the most likely to be brought straight back into the side, probably in place of Victor Lindelof, although this would be harsh on the Swede after back-to-back clean sheets in Rangnick’s first two league games.
Prior to that, Lindelof was arguably playing better than Harry Maguire, but it seems likely that the club captain will be protected, at least for now.
Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles have been doing well at right-back and left-back, respectively, during the absences of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw, and could keep their places, although the gap caused by the double postponement will have interrupted momentum and afforded the English duo more of a chance.
Rangnick’s preferred 4-2-2-2 system may be deployed again, meaning that Scott McTominay and Fred will probably reprise their familiar defensive midfield partnership.
Other than the almost certain inclusion of Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the front two, the remaining three selections are hard to predict. Last time out, Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho played behind Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford, but the quartet struggled to create chances against Norwich.
Other options are Cavani, Martial, Mason Greenwood, Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard, and Juan Mata.
Match fitness may be an issue for the likes of Cavani and Martial. Greenwood is probably the form player of the group but we think Rangnick will stick with Rashford alongside Ronaldo upfront, with Fernandes and perhaps Van de Beek behind to add a little more control.
With all that in mind, this is our predicted starting XI for tomorrow’s game: