How Man United should line up against Spurs: FFT asks the experts

We're debating the strongest line-ups for the opening day. How do you see it going? An ex-player, prominent blogger and FFT editor look at the various permutations...

Former player: Gary Pallister (Man United 1989-98)

(4-4-2)

Why this line-up

"It’s an almost impossible task to predict Louis van Gaal’s tactics and formation, because he likes to vary them so much – and the new signings he’s made give him a lot of options and flexibility. This is what I think would be their strongest team overall, though, rather than the one that might start on Saturday. 

"I think we’re likely to see a back four at Old Trafford. There are some great defensive options now – Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett, Marcos Rojo and new Italian full-back Matteo Darmian – but I think Daley Blind and Antonio Valencia may keep the full-back positions, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the middle.

"Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger are great signings and will probably start. United have been crying out for players with a bit of muscle in the centre of the park and now they’ve got them. They’ll keep playing through Michael Carrick in front of the back four, though.

"I wonder if he’ll start Memphis Depay on the bench and ease him in, but the lad isn’t short of confidence. Juan Mata, who was pivotal in winning the Champions League place at the end of last year, is playing brilliantly and would be unlucky to lose his place.

"Up front there is a lot of reliance on Wayne Rooney and you’d think Van Gaal is still looking for that marquee attacking signing – so perhaps Marouane Fellaini will continue to support him when he's back from suspension."

Blogger: Joshi (@BusbyMUFC)

(4-3-3)

Why this line-up

"The first game of the season should see a number of the summer recruits getting their first run-outs at Old Trafford - maybe all of them if De Gea completes his move to Real Madrid as is expected.

"Darmian comes in as a specialist right-back with predominantly defensive attributes, a rarity with the modern game’s preoccupation with more forward-thinking full-backs. With the attack-minded Valencia and Rafael covering that flank in recent seasons, it’s fair to say the right side of United’s defence hasn’t been the most solid.

"There is, of course, particular excitement at the prospect of lining up with a midfield able to impose itself in matches by dominating possession and pressuring the opposition without the ball. United have gone from being an orphan begging for sustenance to having a veritable feast of options!

"Fans will hope that Schweinsteiger can avoid injuries and find his best form as a general at the base of the midfield. Just ahead of him, Schneiderlin’s work rate coupled with his clever passing should hopefully see him link up well with the more attack-minded Herrera.

"Up front, Depay is an impressive but raw talent blessed with pace, power and a direct dribbling ability reminiscent of a young Cristiano Ronaldo. If all goes well, not only will he provide plenty of threat himself, we should also see defences stretched creating space for the likes of Mata, Rooney and Herrera to exploit going forward.

"There is much work to be done but United fans should feel more confident about this season than the two that preceded it…"

FFT says

(5-3-2)

​Why this line-up

Manchester United have a wealth of options in personnel and tactics; most important, perhaps, is that Louis van Gaal identifies a workable strategy and sticks with it. Certainly there should be no continuation of the Fellainiball that characterised the second half of the 2014/15 season, as teams began to grow wise to a one-dimensional tactic.

Van Gaal's love of a back three wasn't always popular among the Old Trafford faithful, and that was understandable, but there is merit in it – the problem is a lack of top-quality centre-backs. Michael Carrick dropping into defence is still a viable option, however, which is helpful given United's plethora of central midfielders. It's not really necessary for Carrick, Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger to all feature in the same XI at any point; this way, the goal threats of Herrera and Mata can be accommodated.

Depay would probably prefer a 4-3-3 but a drifting role as a left-sided centre-forward could suit him well. Daley Blind may be needed on the left until Luke Shaw reaches his potential, unless Ashley Young continues his fine form.

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