Following our 2-0 win against Sunderland on Saturday, where Rooney cemented his case for playing as a forward and we began to see glimpses of the width we’ve all been missing, it’s time to start looking ahead to the mid-week game against Newcastle, which kicks off at 7.45pm on Wednesday, and is live on BT Sport.
Van Gaal has seemed consistently unsure of his best 11, even with an almost injury-free squad to pick from, but right now, I’d be delighted to see us line-up like this…
De Gea in goal needs no further comment. If you haven’t already seen this epic De Gea tribute video, check it out!
Hopefully Shaw has recovered from his ‘tiredness’, and will be fresh enough to line up at left-back, where we need to see as much stamina and athleticism as possible from the young number 3.
Rojo has been one of our most consistent players this season, and is an obvious shout at centre-back assuming he’s not needed on the left.
Following Smalling’s man-of-the-match performance against Sunderland, he has to get the nod in the ball-playing ‘Rio role’.
And completing the back four, Valencia is the best option available at right-back, where he can provide energy in defence and support on the flank in the final third.
Blind and Herrera have looked like a solid partnership in the games they’ve played together in midfield. Blind can keep it simple, sitting in front of the back four and recycling possession; he’s not known for particularly ambitious passing, but he does have the odd killer ball in him, case in point being the delivery for that Van Persie header at the World Cup. Herrera, meanwhile, offers thrust, movement and grit, winning the ball and speeding up the tempo, and he’s always a danger if he gets a shooting chance from distance too.
In the number 10 role, at the centre of a dynamic attacking three, I’ve gone for Juan Mata, who has been criminally marginalised during Van Gaal’s tenure. He’s certainly not the fastest or most physical player we have, but against a team like Newcastle, his vision and technique should be able to shine.
On the left is Di Maria. Yes, his recent form has been woeful, but no-one can question his class, and I think he can only regain his confidence by continuing to play. Hopefully, this 4-2-3-1 formation would help get the best out of our record signing.
On the right is Januzaj, who played brilliantly after coming on at half time against Sunderland. He’s intelligent, direct, and has the ability to cause all kinds of problems for the opposition. As we enter the final period of the season, this would be a great time for the boy who inherited Giggsy’s shirt to get a run of games and remind us what he’s all about.
I’ve gone for Rooney as a solo striker, but this is by no means a conservative formation, as Di Maria and Januzaj would be expected to make plenty of attacking runs into the box, with Shaw and Valencia overlapping on the wings to stretch Newcastle and create plenty of openings. Rooney is clearly still a 20-goal-a-season man if used correctly, and I’d back him to score another couple on Wednesday night as he usually tends to rack up the goals in bursts.
Let me know what you think of my selection in the comments below!