By CandH’s top blogger Allen Cummings
David Moyes has to make what could be possibly his most testing team selection of the season so far against Sheffield United on Monday evening.
Up until now despite the ridiculous fixture schedule, Moyes has largely been able to stick with a relatively settled team. The odd absentee has had to be catered for of course – but this time he has some big calls to make.
While we are all entitled to have our say, Moyes is the one with his head on the block. He’s also the one closest to the players, how they’ve trained, how they are coping with the workload, what their current mental state might be.
All things none of us really have a clue about. So when Moyes makes his choice it will be with the best possible information available – and it’ll be in the best interests of the players and of the team!
With Angelo Ogbonna definitely ruled out, doubts over whether Issa Diop will be available or if Fabian Balbuena has shaken off the ‘niggle’ he felt in the warm-up at Old Trafford, there are defensive calls to make.
Then there are the continuing concerns over Michail Antonio’s fitness in the light of his troublesome ’hammies’ and fatigue, plus the worrying drop in form and confidence of Jarrod Bowen. Moyes has quite a juggling act facing him.
At half-time against Manchester United the manager switched to a back five, bringing on Ryan Fredericks and Ben Johnson as wing-backs, with Craig Dawson operating in between Vladimir Coufal and Aaron Cresswell.
That worked pretty well from where I was watching. Moyes switched to a back five after the first couple of games of the season with great success.
At that time of course Antonio was 100% fit and flying as a lone striker. That’s not the case right now and Micky’s season needs to be carefully managed.
I’d be happy to see him on the bench on Monday, if available, and only used if completely necessary – mindful of the fact we have the spuds the following week.
With a solid-looking back five, plus the resolute Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice in front of them, Moyes could afford the luxury of having Jesse Lingard, Said Benrahma and maybe Manuel Lanzini as a mobile, interchanging attacking option. With Bowen and Pablo Fornals joining Antonio on the bench the manager would have alternatives to turn to if necessary. No doubt there will be those who claim playing five at the back at home against the bottom club is too negative, but I don’t see it that way.
The Blades enjoyed an FA Cup victory in mid-week and a shock 2-1 success at Old Trafford a couple of games ago. They’ll be dogged on the night for sure. It might not be a pretty watch – but three points is the only prize that matters at the end of the day – and that’s all David Moyes will rightly be focusing on!