Picking a Manchester United XI to Take Down West Brom

Max TowleAnalyst IDecember 27, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is congratulated by team mates after he scored the third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on December 15, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Things got a little crazy for Manchester United on Boxing Day, as the team edged a thrilling encounter with Newcastle United 4-3.

Needless to say, some of the football was just as frightful as the weather, as neither side felt particularly compelled to defend for large periods of the game.

What made it a time to be cheerful for fans of the club was the never-say-die attitude of the players, fighting their way back from deficits on three occasions during the 90 minutes.

Even Patrice Evra, for whom scoring is rarer than a white Christmas, struck his fourth goal of what is becoming an increasingly prolific season for him.

At this halfway point in the season, the result sees the Red Devils extend their lead over rivals Manchester City to seven points—incredible considering the struggles that the Red Devils have faced this season.

West Brom make the trip north to Old Trafford this weekend, seeking to continue a fine run of form that currently has them level on points with Everton in fourth.

In picking a potential United starting XI to take down the Baggies, one must first assess who will actually be available for selection for the game.

According to manager Sir Alex Ferguson, talisman Wayne Rooney will be out of action for three weeks having sustained ligament damage in training (via Daily Mail).

Though Nani, Anderson and Shinji Kagawa are all nearing a return to action as they recover from problems that have kept them sidelined, it is unlikely any of the three will be immediately thrust straight back into the starting lineup.

Rafael too is a doubt, and will most likely take his place on the bench when he does pass a fitness test.

But on to the team, and firstly, the absolute no-brainer of who should play in goal for United.

David de Gea has come on leaps and bounds this season, ironing out many of the flaws that had him labelled erratic by many in his early days at Old Trafford, and is my pick between the sticks.

At right-back, Phil Jones gets the nod over Chris Smalling.

Jones was far more impressive in the draw at Swansea City than Smalling was against Newcastle. The versatile player may still be a diamond in the rough, but with Rafael out hurt, the more playing time he can get, the better.

Captain Fantastic Nemanja Vidic will return to central defence to partner Jonny Evans, while Patrice Evra remains an automatic choice at left-back.

In midfield, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher play in deeper, holding roles behind a more advanced Tom Cleverley.

Young Cleverley has been impressive in spells in the advanced playmaker position for the England national team, and with Wayne Rooney out injured, now is as good a time as any to see if he can do the job on the domestic front.

Despite some patchy form of late from the two, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young start out wide purely because they are the only fit players in the United squad (with the possible exception of Ryan Giggs) who are natural wingers.

Last but not least, Robin van Persie must keep his place in the starting XI for the Red Devils to have the greatest chance of victory.

Though he cannot be expected to play every game over the Christmas period, with Rooney on the sidelines, the Dutchman is one of very few X-factors at Sir Alex's disposal. 16 goals in all competitions this term speaks for itself.

Javier Hernandez returns to the bench, though his contributions to the cause against Newcastle must not go unappreciated in the long-term.

So there you have it—my version of the United team to beat West Brom.

The game should be no means considered an easy three points for the side, but anything less than victory would nevertheless be a huge disappointment for a club chasing Premier League glory.


Who should play against West Brom in the weekend clash? Who must Sir Alex leave out of the side?