Manchester United vs. Wigan Athletic: Predicting United's Starting XI vs. Wigan
With injuries to Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, rumors about the futures of Wayne Rooney, Anderson and Nani, and returns to action by Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans, Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking to get his players back in action.
Here are my predictions for United's starting lineup against the Latics.
GK: David de Gea
After a baptism of fire in his first season in English football, United first-choice goalie David de Gea is looking like he's better for it.
Despite being dropped for the Southampton game, the Spanish U-21 international has impressed when he has played, showing his great shot-stopping ability. Sir Alex Ferguson hinted at a return to goal for de Gea after the Southampton game, and I believe we will see him start (Daily Mail).
LB: Patrice Evra
If this season is to be one of success for United, Patrice Evra will need to return to his old Mr. Dependable role. Unfortunately, with every passing game, that is looking less and less likely.
The inclusion of Alexander Buttner in the squad has been rumored, but it feels like too sudden a move (Metro).
RB: Rafael da Silva
Rafael da Silva had a belated start to the season because of his involvement in Brazil's Olympic squad, but he has impressed ever since his return.
The right-back grabbed a goal in United's win over Fulham and should be one less worry for Sir Alex Ferguson in defense.
CB: Nemanja Vidic
First name on the team sheet?
CB: Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand returned to his center-back position against Southampton in United's last EPL outing, but as no one can really tell what his fitness will be like, there is no guarantee if he will reprise that role against Wigan.
Jonny Evans, who has been battling his way back to fitness over recent weeks, could well take his place if he is unavailable.
Last season, Anderson's partnership with Tom Cleverley in the center of midfield was hailed as the solution to United's problem replacing Paul Scholes. It was at the heart of United's great start last season.
The Brazilian has been at the center of rumors linking him with a move away from the club, but I think he deserves a little more time (Yahoo! Sports). Just like he showed last season, when given a run of games, he starts to deliver on his promise.
CM: Paul Scholes
Wigan Athletic will definitely defend deep at some point, so who better to create the incisive passes to break them down?
Fans, of course, will be worried that there still seems to be a dependence on Paul Scholes to control matches for United. His second-half cameo against Southampton after coming on as a substitute attests to that, leading to Robin van Persie naming him man of the match.
Rumors of a move away from United for Nani to Zenit St. Petersburg have been bandied around this week (Mirror Football). Now, they may well be true, but Nani is still a United player and, in the absence of Ashley Young, he is the club's next best pick at left-wing.
RM: Antonio Valencia
It is not only Sir Alex Ferguson that feels that Antonio Valencia deserves to be in the No. 7 jersey, his fellow teammate, Ashley Young, says Antonio Valencia is "very professional" and "a great human being" (Mirror Football).
"Last season he had everything," said Young, who is sidelined with a knee injury. "He attacks, he defends, he can shoot, he can cross, he can pass - he has it all."
"That's why he scooped up everything at the end-of-season awards. It's why the players voted for him and it's why the fans voted for him."
"He's fantastic to play with. Antonio, like every other player, knows how to look after himself as well. He knows what to eat, what to drink and he works closely with our fitness coaches."
AM/C: Tom Cleverley
Over recent weeks, Tom Cleverley's performances for both England and Manchester United have garnered rave reviews from his manager, fans and pundits. England manager Roy Hodgson recently compared him to Cesc Fabregas, and his praise has translated into caps for the player.
The England international has been a big part of United's matches this season, and he should start against Wigan Athletic.
SC: Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie's substitution at halftime in a World Cup qualifying match for Holland (suspected thigh injury) puts his place in United's squad to face Wigan in doubt, but according to Holland manager Louis van Gaal, the substitution was just for "precautionary measures" (ESPN Soccernet).
If this is a serious injury, then it is unlikely that he will play against Wigan. Otherwise, he is United's most obvious starter in attack.