Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team selection for today’s Premier League game against Southampton could tell us a great deal about the Manchester United manager’s priorities for the season and how safe he feels in his job.
United have been struggling in the Premier League this term and lie 13th in the table. Three points therefore seem vital, as does putting out a strong side against the high-flying Saints, who have won five and drawn two of their last seven games.
But Solskjaer will also have one eye on Wednesday’s home Champions League tie against PSG.
A point would almost certainly put United through to the round of 16 and an £8.5 million bonus payment. Assuming RB Leipzig and PSG beat Istanbul Basaksehir in their remaining ties, a loss would leave the Red Devils having to get a point in Germany the following Tuesday – not an easy task despite their convincing win over Julian Nagelsmann’s men in the home leg.
Decisions over players who have ongoing fitness niggles will be particularly crucial. Does Solskjaer risk Victor Lindelof (back) today, knowing that his most likely deputy, Axel Tuanzebe, is suspended for Wednesday’s game? Will Marcus Rashford (shoulder) be rested today so he is fit to face the side he has put to the sword in their previous two encounters?
Edinson Cavani impressed in Tuesday’s victory over Basaksehir, but is the 33-year-old fit enough to play three games in eight days? If not, Solskjaer will have to choose which game is more important.
Solskjaer may also need to manage his central midfielders well as Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba are injured and it is unclear as to whether they will be available for the PSG game or not. Nemanja Matic may struggle to play two games in three days and Bruno Fernandes is approaching 1,000 minutes of football already this season.
If the manager’s top priority is the Premier League or if he is concerned about his future, today’s line-up is likely to include Lindelof, Rashford, Cavani, Fernandes and Matic. If the Champions League tie is more important to him,or he feels his position is safe, most if not all of them could be rested.
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