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Jose Mourinho shelled out for stellar names in the summer with the signing of Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic; players who he not only worked with previously but also keyed in on Premier League experience.
The duo got right in the thick of things as Manchester United unleashed lip smacking terror at the start of the 2017/18 Premier League campaign, scoring 21 goals while only conceding two in their first seven League games.
Injuries have however hampered United’s progress, with both Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba sidelined for a month and two respectively. The Red Devils appeared beleaguered and subdued in the absence of the duo, more often than not finishing second best in the feisty midfield battles.
One would expect Ander Herrera to embrace the responsibility of pairing with Matic in midfield, but their different approach and style of play saw United struggle; ineluctably deflating the attack without assurance of shielding the backline.
Another injury to either Pogba or Fellaini, or worse off both, could heavily dent Manchester United’s title credibility.
Antonio Valencia has managed to conjure up his career at United by taking up to life as a defender like a duck to water.
His measured attacking approach without absconding defensive duties has seen him rewarded with the armband despite Michael Carrick’s appointment as official club skipper.
However, a latent cause for concern is the fact that an injury to the Ecuadorian could leave huge shoes to fill- with few deserving candidates. The left-back slot isn’t any better either, as injury to Ashley Young could leave United heavily exposed.
One could argue Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw are the most natural fullback replacements, but the former has often struggled at right-back against tougher Premier League opposition while exit of the latter seems imminent following multiple injuries over the seasons.
At full strength Manchester United have a starting XI capable of walking the league, but what happens when injury strikes at the peak of the Premier League campaign?
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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