Manchester Utd vs. Valencia: How Reds Will Line Up in Van Gaal's First Home Game

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 17:  Louis van Gaal appears at a press conference as he is unveiled as the new Manchester United manager at Old Trafford on July 17, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Manchester United vs. Valencia is Louis van Gaal's first home game as manager of the Red Devils and represents his last chance to experiment before the season starts on Saturday.

With the club billing the fixture as the team being "reunited" with Old Trafford and the fans, it will be interesting to see if Van Gaal reunites the starting line-up from the final leg of the U.S. tour.

My guess would be that 10 of the 11 who started against Liverpool will play again here. However, there will surely be significant changes in the second half. In the Liverpool game there was a trophy at stake, albeit not a prestigious one.

In this game the focus will surely be on the players' fitness, and on providing another chance for the first team to play using Van Gaal's new formation. Additionally, it will be a chance for Van Gaal to see how players who were not on United's tour can contribute during the season ahead.

PASADENA, CA - JULY 23:  Goal keeper David De Gea #1 of Manchester United throws the ball forward against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl on July 23, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

In goal, David de Gea will retain his place unless United's coaches want to keep him wrapped up in cotton wool ahead of the competitive season.

It does not look like there are many options at right-wing-back, and Antonio Valencia seems favourite to play there. There is the possibility Ashley Young may get the role, assuming he is not deployed on the left.

At left-wing-back there are more options. It will be fascinating to see if Van Gaal considers expensive new signing Luke Shaw to be first-choice. Reece James impressed on the tour of the U.S., and Young has excelled at left-wing-back this pre-season too.

Shaw is my guess, given that it is his first chance to play for United at Old Trafford. A half-time substitution for Young may follow.

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 13:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid is put under pressure by Jonny Evans and Phil Jones of Manchester United  during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at Estadio Sant
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

At centre-back, assuming the three first-team regulars play, it will be intriguing to see their positioning. Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have rotated their positions on tour. Will Van Gaal use Smalling as his man-in-the-middle as a stopper, or will he opt for Evans' superior distribution in that role?

Tyler Blackett and Michael Keane may well see further action, as they did so often on tour.

In the centre of midfield there are precious few options. The return from tour re-unites Marouane Fellaini with the squad, but rumours abound that he is set to leave the club, per Simon Jones and Sami Mokbel on the Mail Online.

The successful midfield pairing of Ander Herrera and Darren Fletcher should get another outing. If Fellaini plays no part in this game then surely his fate as a United player is sealed.

Uncredited/Associated Press

At No. 10, Juan Mata remains the obvious first-choice. Van Gaal may want to give Adnan Januzaj some minutes in the role, although he may also deploy him as part of the front two. If he does, expect to see Shinji Kagawa given further minutes at No. 10.

If the rumours of Javier Hernandez's impending departure are accurate—see the Mail Online report linked above—and Danny Welbeck has returned from injury, then the front two seem an easy guess.

Wayne Rooney will presumably once again be partnered by Welbeck. Welbeck's energy and endeavour is of enormous benefit to Van Gaal's system.

Much was made of the superb 20-pass move that lead to Ashley Young's goal against Real Madrid on the tour, but it was Welbeck's willingness to seek to regain possession that began the move.


For all the Danny Welbeck bashers: this is how the first "20 pass" goal against Real Madrid started #manutd

— Flavs Lens (@FlavsNB) August 9, 2014

In the second half, Van Gaal may consider deploying James Wilson—fresh from his four-goal haul against Manchester City, in the Manchester Senior Cup Final last Thursday evening. It would not be a surprise to see the game finish with a front three of Kagawa, Januzaj and Wilson.

This is my guess at the starting XI. As always, feel free to share yours in the comments below. Next time we do this, it will be for a game that really matters.

The new season is almost here, and the excitement is building quickly...

Manchester United - Football tactics and formations