The wait is over. In a matter of hours, the 2015/16 Premier League season will begin, with Old Trafford the setting for the opening match. The sun is shining in Manchester this morning, the press are making their way to the ground, and you can feel the anticipation in the air.
— Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) August 7, 2015
So what can we expect from today’s fixture?
There will be two key omissions from the team this Saturday lunchtime – David De Gea is “not capable” of playing, according to Van Gaal, and Bastian Schweinsteiger is not yet match fit. With that in mind, here’s how the team might line up today…
The main question marks are probably around who will play in goal, who will play at right back, and who will play in central midfield. In goal, the choice is probably between Sam Johnstone and Sergio Romero. Although Van Gaal has shown a willingness to put his trust in youth, he will probably opt for experience today.
At right back, I would be keen to see Darmian make his full debut, but I have a funny feeling Valencia will get the nod, with Darmian to get some minutes in the second half if the score allows.
And in midfield, the manager will have to choose two from Carrick, Schneiderlin and Herrera – I think Carrick will definitely start, and whilst I would personally pick Herrera alongside him, I reckon Schneiderlin might be the one that emerges from the tunnel. If that’s what happens, a lot of fans will be riled…
3) don’t play Schneiderlin and Carrick at the expense of Herrera We need a CM that can create chances, hence Herrera is a must to start
— Manchesterspeak (@Manchesterspeak) August 7, 2015
If Herrera’s dropped whilst De Gea and Schweinsteiger aren’t playing, LvG’s not going to be in the United faithfuls good books. — Liam (@OffsideLiam) August 7, 2015
And what about Spurs’ line-up? Here’s the prediction from TottenhamBlog.com:
SpursStatMan.com has gone with a slightly different team:
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE GAME
Spurs lost 4 out of 5 away games against the top-6 last season, conceding at least 3 goals in all instances, including the 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford – the beginning of United’s best run of performances last season.
As observed by Adrian Clarke, “they defended poorly as a team in all those defeats. Rarely deviating from a positive 4-2-3-1 approach.” If Pochettino hasn’t found a more balanced, defensively-solid formula, United could once again stand to profit.
During pre-season, there were still signs of United lacking tempo and penetration in possession, but Van Gaal’s signing of Memphis Depay and pursuit of Pedro indicates his recognition of the need for pace and creativity in United’s attack.
With an untested keeper in goal and most likely a somewhat experimental back four still lacking a truly top-class centre-back, however, and with Harry Kane posing an obvious threat, there’s a suspicion that conservatism may once again prevail in our play.
Hopefully Wayne Rooney, restored as the central striker and captaining the team, will put in a leader’s performance and prove to the manager that this is where he belongs. He has scored an impressive 10 goals in 18 previous appearances against Spurs, as well as making 3 assists, so he certainly has form against this opposition.
Now that Ashley Young has been given a new contract, hopefully this will give him even more confidence, rather than giving him less of a point to prove. And with Depay handed the iconic number 7 shirt, it will be fascinating to see how his first taste of action at Old Trafford pans out.
If Schneiderlin does play, he’ll need to keep Dembele in check. Funnily enough, Spurs were said to be after Schneiderlin last year, so it will be interesting to see if the former Southampton man can show Pochettino exactly what he’s missing.
This game feels like it should have goals in it – anything can happen on the opening weekend, but both teams have some serious attacking talent along with potential defensive vulnerabilities.
I’m predicting a 3-1 win for United, with goals from Rooney, Depay & Young.
Feeling lucky? Paddy Power are offering odds of 12/1 for a 3-1 United win