Manchester United return to action on Friday when they take on Middlesbrough in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Ralf Rangnick’s side had finally started to build some momentum with good wins over Brentford and West Ham, but that had to be put on hold due to a two-week winter break.
Most of the team have enjoyed some time off at the break, although Edinson Cavani, Fred, Alex Telles, Eric Bailly and Hannibal have all been away with their countries on international duty.
Boro’s visit gives Rangnick a chance to experiment with his team ahead of United’s return to Premier League competition against Burnley on Tuesday and here are five players who should start at Old Trafford.
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With Anthony Martial, Amad and Donny van de Beek out on loan in January and Mason Greenwood no longer available, United’s attacking options have been considerably reduced heading into the final half of the season.
Now United may have to use Lingard, who hasn’t started the league for them in over two years and was told he could leave on loan before the club changed their minds, much more often than they expected.
The striker is due to start on Friday so he can up his game and be ready when called up in the Premier League.
Juan Mata has found himself in a similar position and could also use minutes on Friday, but perhaps from the bench.
If he is fully fit and ready, Pogba should definitely start against Boro.
Rangnick was stunned when the Frenchman returned to training more than a week ago, a month ahead of schedule after suffering a thigh injury in November.
He continued to train during the break and a return on Friday would be a good opportunity to get back into the swing of things and give United a much-needed boost to their midfield options heading into the business end of the top-four race. .
Another player who didn’t get the loan he wanted in January is Henderson, as Rangnick decided he wanted to keep him in case something happened to David de Gea.
It seems unlikely that Henderson will be able to get the Spaniard out of the sticks for the rest of the season, but he should at least start in the FA Cup, especially against the lower league, to keep his morale as high as possible for the rest. of the Bell
Although most players probably enjoyed the last fortnight off, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Rashford.
The striker had just started to find a good run of form as he scored two games in a row after not scoring since October.
Both goals came off the bench as Rashford reacted positively on the downside, but the winter break could have interrupted that momentum.
Now he should be back in the starting lineup to give him the best chance to get the ball rolling and score for the third straight game.
Hannibal or Shola Shoretire
With Anthony Elanga now a regular first-team starter, Rangnick should seize the opportunity to give another of the club’s young prospects a chance against Middlesbrough.
Hannibal’s Africa Cup of Nations experience came to an end on Saturday when Tunisia were eliminated by Burkina Faso and he will join first-team training for the rest of the season upon his return.
It’s still unclear if he’s back in Manchester and ready to play, but he turned down the opportunity for a holiday after competing in the Arab Cup for his country in December to return to training and AFCON wasn’t too demanding as he only played 67. minutes in two games.
So hopefully the playmaker returns and gets to play for the new coach for the first time, if not then another prospect at Shoretire should be given a chance to shine.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.