Manchester United vs Middlesbrough: Three players who must start

by Leo Nieboer


After claiming five wins on the trot, Jose Mourinho will be desperate to see his Manchester United side continue building some much-needed momentum going into the new year against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Aitor Karanka’s side haven’t won an away game since August, and Man United fans will expect to see Mourinho’s men claim their fifth successive win.

With that in mind, here are three players the 53-year-old must start on New Year’s eve.

Anthony Martial 

The Frenchman hasn’t featured in the starting XI since United’s 1-1 draw with Everton, with confidence issues and the re-emergence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan precluding him from cementing himself on the left hand side. And with a visit to West Ham United coming three days later, Mourinho might be tempted to hand Martial a chance to impress against Karaoke’s side.

Phil Jones 

Jones’ metamorphosis under Mourinho has been nothing short of startling: back in August it felt as if the Englishman, plagued by constant injuries and miles down the defensive pecking order, would spent the majority of the season watching from the sidelines. Fast forward to the present and – no, this isn’t an elaborate gag – Jones forms the core of a growingly robust United defence, playing on a regular basis. He is now one of the first names on the team sheet.

Michael Carrick

United’s record with Carrick in the starting XI speaks for itself: 13 starts, 11 wins, no defeats. Much like Jones, he begun the Mourinho era on the periphery of proceedings, but now serves as an indispensable member of the starting XI. The midfield combination of Carrick, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera this season has galvanised the entire side, and Mourinho won’t want to disrupt the balance.

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