Manchester United: Last-Minute Team News and Potential Starting XI vs. Chelsea

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIOctober 28, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Javier Hernandez of Manchester United celebrates with his team-mates after scoring his team's third goal to make the score 3-2 during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Manchester United and SC Braga at Old Trafford on October 23, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Manchester United will take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the final match of the Premier League this weekend—arguably their biggest of the season so far.

The Red Devils currently sit four points behind the Champions League winners and league leaders heading into this fixture and with fellow title contenders Manchester City and Arsenal already winning this week, United know that they need a win to keep the pressure on at the top of the table.

But perhaps more importantly, there is a lot at stake here on a personal level, with two of the most successful Premier League clubs in history doing battle once again for ultimate bragging rights and prestige.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men head into this one under less than ideal circumstances, with several key players ruled out due to injury.

Let's take a look at all the last-minute team news for United ahead of their clash with the Blues, and see if we can figure out how the Red Devils will line up in this one.


Shinji Kagawa

The Japanese midfielder is definitely out for Manchester Uniter after picking up an injury in his team's 3-2 win over Sporting Braga in the UEFA Champions League during the week.

Kagawa suffered a knee injury and will be out of action for three weeks, according to the Premier League's official Twitter account.


Manchester United will be without midfielder Shinji Kagawa for "3-4 weeks" because of a knee injury

— Premier League (@premierleague) October 26, 2012



Wayne Rooney

The injury to Kagawa therefore opens up a midfield role for Sir Alex Ferguson, who is believed to be considering playing Wayne Rooney in midfield in order to consolidate defensively and improve on his side's poor record at Stamford Bridge.

According to the latest reports from Goal, Rooney will play in central midfield—the role normally played by Kagawa—to give United further defensive coverage.

This could mean that the Red Devils will adopt the 4-2-3-1 formation they used earlier in the season rather than the midfield diamond they have been using of late.


David De Gea

The Spanish international started in goal for United during their Champions League fixture during the week due to an injury to Anders Lindegaard—making David de Gea the automatic starter for the Red Devils against Sporting Braga.

De Gea is expected to start again against Chelsea, with Lindegaard's recovery still expected to be about a week away, according to Physio Room.


United's defense

Perhaps the biggest question for Manchester United ahead of their match against Chelsea concerns their defense and whether or not their makeshift back four can contain the attacking brilliance of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and the Blues midfield.

Nemanja Vidic, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are all still unavailable according to Physio Room, meaning that a defensive line consisting of Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand and Rafael Da Silva is probable—although Ferguson could opt for Michael Carrick somewhere in there if need be.


Potential Starting XI

As mentioned before, United's focus on defense in this one could see them abandon the midfield diamond formation they've used to great effect in previous matches—essentially a 4-1-2-1-2—and line up in the 4-2-3-1 formation they used previously this year.

I think that Ferguson may opt for a defensive midfield pairing of Michael Carrick, given his experience and strong positional play, and Tom Cleverley—who excelled during the week on the right flank against Sporting Braga.

There is an argument to be made that United should use Ryan Giggs in central midfield given his experience, which makes sense, considering that Sir Alex does tend towards the veteran in big games this year.

Giggs started against both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur this year (per WhoScored)—United's biggest games—and could start again here.

Javier Hernandez's mid-week heroics had many thinking he'll find a starting position, but given that United are looking for defense, I think he may just find himself on the bench in this one—although he could play out on the left wing if needed.

And finally, is this the week we see Ashley Young, or will we see more of Nani? The Portuguese international was excellent in the Champions League, but Young is clearly the starter if healthy. We'll have to wait and see on that one, but I think that the England international does start for the Red Devils in their biggest match of the season to date.

What would your starting lineup be?


Any last-minute team news or predictions that you have?

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