Manchester United return to action against Burnley on Wednesday night in the Carabao Cup last 16 – live on Sky Sports Football – but which of their World Cup stars will be playing at Old Trafford?
A group of 25 trained at Carrington on Tuesday, with Argentina’s Lisandro Martinez and France defender Raphael Varane absent having reached Sunday’s World Cup final.
United manager Erik ten Hag is now left with few options at centre-back, with his two preferred choices unavailable, and is likely to throw captain Harry Maguire straight back into the starting line-up.
Maguire was among those back at Carrington on Tuesday, along with his England team-mates Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw, after being knocked out of the World Cup quarter-finals by France on December 10.
Man Utd’s provisional squad for Burnley
- Goalkeepers: De Gea, Dubravka, Heaton.
- Defenders: Maguire, Lindelof, Malacia, Shaw, Williams, Wan-Bissaka, Bennett..
- Midfielders: Casemiro, Eriksen, Fernandes, McTominay, Fred, Van de Beek,, Iqbal.
- Forwards: Martial, Rashford, Antony, Garnacho, Elanga, Pellistri.
Victor Lindelof was part of United’s warm-weather training camp in Spain and is the obvious candidate to partner Maguire at centre-back for the visit of the Championship leaders.
The pair have so far struggled to settle in Ten Hag’s system, which places a bigger emphasis on playing a higher line and being more proactive out of possession to win the ball back higher up the pitch.
Martial and Rashford to fill Ronaldo void
United striker Anthony Martial is fit and firing for the season’s restart and will be especially relied upon in the coming weeks before the January transfer window following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. Ten Hag is expected to share the striking duties between Martial and Rashford, with his options otherwise limited.
United are considering their options in the transfer market for next month, with PSV and Netherlands forward Cody Gakpo among their striking targets, but are aware of FFP regulations having spent more than £200m in the summer.
Ronaldo and United mutually agreed to terminate the 37-year-old’s contract after he criticised the club and Ten Hag in an explosive interview with Piers Morgan on Talk TV.
What does Dalot absence mean?
A notable absentee from the main group on Tuesday was Portugal right-back Diogo Dalot, who has been a stand-out performer for United this season and impressed at the World Cup in Qatar, too.
Dalot came off with an apparent hamstring injury in the 79th-minute of Portugal’s World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco.
His absence could give Aaron Wan-Bissaka his first chance to impress Ten Hag in a competitive game from the start since the Dutchman took charge. The full-back has played only four minutes this season.
The £50m signing from Crystal Palace in 2019 has fallen out of favour under Ten Hag and will be allowed to move on in January if an appropriate offer comes in. If that were to happen a replacement could be signed.
Ten Hag has preferred to play left-footed full-back Tyrell Malacia, who was also training on Tuesday, at right-back in Dalot’s absence so far this season. Another sign that Wan-Bissaka is not in the manager’s plans.
Brandon Williams has also recovered from injury and could fill in at right-back, having made his return in two friendlies against Cadiz and Real Betis.
Sancho still missing
Jadon Sancho was also not part of Tuesday’s group having not returned since missing the warm-weather training camp. The 22-year-old is currently undertaking individual training sessions in the Netherlands because Ten Hag says he is not physically or mentally ready to be with the main group.
“He wasn’t fit enough to be there,” Ten Hag said of Sancho’s absence in Spain. “It’s a combination of physically and mentally. Sometimes there are circumstances with fitness and mood.
“Our aim is to get him back as quickly as possible.”
Sancho has now been unavailable for two months, having last played in United’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea on October 22.
How are the rest of the squad?
Portugal international Bruno Fernandes and Brazil trio Casemiro, Antony and Fred were also among those at Carrington on Tuesday, along with Denmark’s Christian Eriksen and Uruguay’s Facundo Pellistri after their World Cup exploits.
Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek and Anthony Elanga were among those who kept fit during the World Cup break and are now ready to resume the season with United.
Youngsters Alejandro Garnacho, who is having a break-out season with the first-team after goals at Real Sociedad and Fulham, Zidane Iqbal and Rhys Bennett were also part of the training group.
There were five goalkeepers in the session: David de Gea, Martin Dubravka, Tom Heaton, Nathan Bishop and Radek Vitek.