Manchester United’s clash with Chelsea provides Jose Mourinho with a perfect opportunity to lift the gloom currently surrounding his side’s campaign.
Defeats to Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, along with the toothless performance against Sevilla and Paul Pogba’s growingly precarious situation, have all left a bad taste in the mouths of supporters.
A victory over Antonio Conte, who engaged in a war with words with Mourinho earlier this year, would provide an invaluable injection of positivity and consolidate second place in the Premier League table.
Here are three players who the 55-year-old must start for the crucial clash with the champions on Sunday.
The Frenchman was deservedly named ‘Player of the Month’ for January but hasn’t managed to replicate his effervescence throughout February, with Alexis Sanchez primarily occupying the left hand side instead.
And while the Chilean has already displayed his quality going forward, you sense that United’s attacking vitality would benefit from moving him elsewhere an giving Martial the license to bomb forward against Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses.
Supporters have increasingly started to ask why Mourinho insists on using Ashley Young, despite his form dipping, at left back at a time when Shaw is mounting a superb resurgence having been frozen out during the early stages of the campaign.
And it is a good question. He has only made three Premier League starts since the turn of the year and you can’t help but question Mourinho’s decision to ignore the raw energy he provides down the left flank at a time when United’s performances have been growingly ponderous.
The Ivorian’s last start for United came against Chelsea all the way back in November and there would be no better way to announce his return than by shutting out the likes of Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata.
Last season’s 2-0 win over the champions was characterised by a ruthless, bullish defensive display from Bailly, who badgered Diego Costa all game and rendered him ineffective.
And at a time when Chris Smalling‘s jitteriness is costing United points, Bailly’s reintroduction is paramount.