Could Sheffield United unveil a new formation at Man Utd?
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, is prepared to change his team’s shape if it helps them cope with a defensive selection crisis.
Despite employing a 3-5-2 formation for the overwhelming majority of his 186 games in charge, Wilder has admitted he could switch to a 4-4-2 or a 5-4-1 at Manchester United tomorrow after losing a clutch of key players.
With on-loan goalkeeper Dean Henderson ineligible for selection against his parent club, United are also set to be without John Egan for the meeting with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side following the centre-half’s red card during last weekend’s defeat by Newcastle. There are also question marks about the availability of Phil Jagielka, the Republic of Ireland international’s natural replacement, while Jack O’Connell is also battling to overcome an injury.
“We’ll look at everything,” Wilder said. “We’ll try and pick the best side. There’s all sorts of things I’ve got to look at.
“There’s a thought process. Do I go let them go again? Or do I change the shape and other things. I’ve been through them all in my head.”
If Jagielka passes his fitness test, Wilder is unlikely to unveil a new tactical approach for the visit to the North-West in order to limit the disruption to his starting eleven. But the 52-year-old’s hand could be forced if the former England man is unable to deputise for Egan - who has appeared in all but one of United’s Premier League games since their promotion from the Championship last term.
Either way, the loss of so many key names is set to place even greater pressure on a squad already inconvenienced by a decision to increase the number of substitutes teams are permitted to make as English football plots a course through the fixture chaos created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Acknowledging the schedule is unlikely to pose similar problems for Manchester United, Wilder, whose side are seventh in the table, said: “All I know is they had a behind closed doors game about 10 days ago and there were three or four players who didn’t get in the squad who would have got into most teams."