Five team selection dilemmas for Ralf Rangnick ahead of Manchester United vs Southampton
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While the Red Devils have improved slightly in recent weeks, they’re failing to play well over 90 minutes and have developed an alarming habit of starting games in an encouraging manner, before tailing off in the second half.
That was the case in midweek when United drew 1-1 with Burnley. There were a few concerning performances in that second period, and Rangnick may opt to shuffle the pack this weekend with such a busy fixture schedule in February.
We’ve had a look at some of the key decisions Rangnick has to make ahead of the game.
Harry Maguire was once again at fault for an opposition goal on Tuesday, when his missed tackle on Wout Weghorst created a gap in the defence and within a few seconds Jay Rodriguez had smashed the ball past David De Gea.
The United captain’s form in 2021/22 has been far below what he produced last season and at Euro 2020 last summer. With Victor Lindelof and Phil Jones on the bench, Rangnick may decide to take Maguire out of the firing line and start a different centre-back alongside Raphael Varane. If so, Lindelof is the most likely option for the Red Devils.
Meanwhile, at left-back, Alex Telles has returned from his positive case of Covid-19 and was pictured training on Thursday. Like Maguire, Shaw’s form has been mixed this season, and Rangnick has previously spoken of his admiration for Telles.
Therefore, a switch at left-back is a possibility, although Rangnick revealed on Friday the Brazilian has only training once in the last few weeks.
However, Diogo Dalot’s place on the right flank looks secure, with De Gea a certainty in nets behind the back four.
After a three-month injury lay-off Paul Pogba has played the last two for the Red Devils, but with so many matches on the horizon, Rangnick may be tempted to rest the Frenchman.
If so, the lesser-spotted Jesse Lingard may be selected in an attacking-midfield role. The No.14 has yet to start in the Premier League this season.
However, Nemanja Matic isn’t an option, with Rangnick telling club media that the former Chelsea man is struggling with a shin problem.
The German may opt to again play with Pogba against Southampton and rest the World Cup winner in midweek when Brighton & Hove Albion come to Old Trafford. By then, Fred could have returned to the team after his Covid isolation. However, he’s not expected to be back in time for Saturday.
While there’s doubt surrounding one of the starting spots in midfield, Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes are likely to play at Old Trafford against the Saints.
Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped for the trip to Turf Moor, with Edinson Cavani starting in his place. Rangnick has a dilemma when considering whether to bring the Portuguese striker back into the fold, or stick with Cavani, who scored home and away against Southampton last season.
In the wide areas, Jadon Sancho continued his recent good form against Burnley and is a shoo-in to start on Saturday. However, the same can’t be said for Marcus Rashford, who failed to provide a consistent threat on Tuesday.
Anthony Elanga replaced the England international late on, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him named in the line-up against Southampton, while Lingard could also be drafted into those positions.