Now is the time for Manchester United to prove themselves. Having let players go and Ralf Rangnick looking towards the youth team players this week it could be the way United are going to go for in the future with Rangnick in charge or not. In the FA Cup this weekend it is a great chance for United to continue their journey to find some domestic silverware by blooding some youngsters into the squad alongside the experience already there. However, Middlesbrough are not coming to roll over and have their bellies tickled by the Premier League side.
A few years back and this would have been a Premier League clash. There have been many a battle with the two sides over the years conjuring up images of George Boateng crunching in the centre of midfield, James Morrison taking out Cristiano Ronaldo or Paul Scholes smashing one into the top corner at the Riverside. However, Middlesbrough are no longer a Premier League side and are currently in the Championship.
Even though they are in the Championship, the North East side are showing big ambitions of arriving back into the Premier League as they are in 7th place. With the slump of West Brom, they are back in with a good chance of making the play offs this season.
Since their loss to Preston North End on 23rd November, Boro have only lost one game in all competitions against play off rivals Blackburn Rovers. They are in fine form and could really challenge United if they are not at the races.
Middlesbrough Team News
Manager Chris Wilder will know a thing or two about getting one over United. As manager of Sheffield United he managed to beat the Red Devils at home and drew with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men. However, Wilder is no longer at Sheffield United and Solskjaer is no longer the United boss but Wilder could use similar tactics to defeat the side he beat last season.
Wilder has used a 3-5-2 formation, like he did at Sheffield United, in the Championship this season and he could be tempted to keep that formation with United struggling in the middle of the park. With the likes of Johnny Howson able to disrupt people in the middle to allow Matt Crooks and Marcus Tavernier space to get forward it could be a tricky ask of Fred and Scott McTominay.
With that formation it does allow Wilder to have two strikers and his style of using a pressing forward might just unnerve the back line. Former Brighton man Aaron Connolly was a thorn in United’s side last year home and away could yet prove to be a tricky customer once again.
It will be a welcome return to Old Trafford for former Manchester United man Paddy McNair who has settled well into Wilder’s 3-5-2 formation and will be out to prove to his former employees that he could have stayed at the club.
The FA Cup magic still very much feels alive with this fixture.