Sunday, August 19, 2018
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How Manchester United should line up against Tottenham

Mauricio Pochettino may have frivolously dismissed the importance of winning the FA Cup but theres an element of truth in his statement in that winning the trophy would mean more to Manchester United than Tottenham.

The Argentine believes winning only the Champions League or the Premier League would take his side to the next level. In the same respect, a second win in three years for United in May would not bring the Red Devils any closer to Manchester City but Mourinhos tenure at the club will be defined by the trophies he wins.

Uniteds comeback against Manchester City earlier this month was their fifth win in a row in the league but a dismal 1-0 defeat to West Brom at Old Trafford the following week summed up the lack of consistency that has infuriated Mourinho since his appointment.

The defeat against the Baggies prompted Mourinho to threaten his squad that nobodys place was safe against Spurs and he has decisions to make over Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Ander Herrera.

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United can salvage their season with a win at Wembley but Mourinho must get his team selection right.

Alexis Sanchez must be dropped

Sanchez out? How Man Utd should line up against Spurs in the FA Cup semi-finals
Alexis Sanchez has done little to show he deserves a starting spot against Spurs (Picture: Getty)

Mourinho insists Sanchezs form will improve next season once hes fully settled at the club but privately he will be concerned with the Chileans start at Old Trafford.

Two goals in 13 appearances is a poor return for a player of Sanchezs calibre and he was particularly disappointing during the drab 1-0 defeat against West Brom.

Sanchezs arrival disrupted the progress of Anthony Martial, who showed signs over the New Year that he was starting to make the left flank position his own.

The Chileans record at Wembley with Arsenal was fantastic; seven goals and an assist in six matches. Sanchez is undoubtedly a man for the big occasion but flashes of brilliance have been few and far between since his move to the Red Devils and his performances have done little to persuade Mourinho that he deserves to start on Saturday.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Anthony Martial of Manchester United in action during the Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on March 17, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)
Martial has been starved of chances (Picture: Getty)

Battling Sanchez for a position on the left is Martial and Rashford. Mourinho has tended to favour the latter in the big matches – preferring his work-rate and discipline to Martials erratic moments of magic.

Many question Mourinhos relevance in modern football but the self-proclaimed Special One is still the best at capitalising on his opponents weaknesses and he will have identified Kieran Trippier as a weak spot.

The full-back has had a good season for Spurs but struggles against pace. Martial and Rashford both possess incredible speed but the Frenchman is more direct and a better dribbler. He also provided the best moment of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson years during his last appearance at an FA Cup semi-final when he slotted a last minute goal against Everton in 2016.

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How do you solve a problem like Paul Pogba?

Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester United vs West Bromwich Albion - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - April 15, 2018 Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho as Paul Pogba is substituted Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Mourinho is threatening to drop Pogba (Picture: Getty)

While Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic were rested for the visit to Bournemouth in midweek, Pogba was selected to start on the south coast.

It wasnt exactly punishment for his performance against the Baggies four days earlier but the Frenchman had work to do to ensure his spot in Saturdays Wembley showpiece.

Pogba responded in good fashion; earning himself the man of the match award against the Cherries after setting-up Lukaku to get Uniteds second goal.

Sanchez out? How Man Utd should line up against Spurs in the FA Cup semi-finals
Pogba was hauled off against Spurs in January (Picture: Getty)

Mourinho criticised Pogba for his complicated performance against West Brom but he was the opposite against Bournemouth. The Frenchman played with a serine simplicity and United benefited from the pace in which he moved the ball in a midfield three.

Pogba has to start if United stand a chance of beating Spurs but its almost as important how United set-up behind him to book their place in the final.

Matic is a certainty to start at the base of the midfield but Ander Herrera has played himself into contention with his peformance against Bournemouth. The Spaniard played a superb ball to set-up Uniteds opener and his energy will be important to combat Spurs runners from midfield.

Defence

Manchester United's English defender Chris Smalling (R) celebrates scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
Smalling has been Uniteds most consistent defender (Picture: Getty)

Mourinhos leaned on Chris Smalling in recent weeks as Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo have struggled for fitness.

The former Fulham man has scored in each of his last three away appearances but his erratic defending persists. Nevertheless, hes the most in-form defender United have and he has the pace and aerial presence to compete with Harry Kane.

Next to him, Mourinho must decide between the fit-again Jones or Bailly. The latter didnt feature in either of Uniteds last two games and it felt like punishment for his poor display in the first half of the clubs 3-2 win against Manchester City a fortnight ago.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester United vs Liverpool - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - March 10, 2018 Manchester United's Eric Bailly Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or
Bailly has been struggling for fitness (Picture: Reuters)

Jones performed well against the Cherries but it was his first game back in over two months. Bailly is sharper and should line up alongside Smalling.

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Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young were rested in midweek in a clear indication that theyre being readied for this weekend and the pair will be crucial to Uniteds success at Wembley.

Young had his worst game of the season in Uniteds 2-0 defeat against Spurs in January and it was one of the few occasions this term in which you were reminded that full-back is not his orthodox position.

Matteo Darmian was brought in from the cold to make just his third appearance of 2018 on the south coast but it would be folly to start the Italian against the likes of Son Heung-min, while Mourinhos favouring of Young over Luke Shaw has been more than apparent this season.

How Manchester United should line-up…

Sanchez out? How Man Utd should line up against Spurs in the FA Cup semi-finals

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