Not many, I grant you. But definitely a few. And, with George Baldock completing a full week of training ahead of the game, one in particular.
The Star’s United writer James Shield identifies the starting eleven he thinks United should pick for the first leg of this Championship semi-final, the substitutes Paul Heckingbottom should name on the bench and also explains why he has made these choices.
Shield’s Eleven: Foderingham, Basham, Egan, Robinson, Stevens, Osborn, Norwood, Fleck, Berge, Gibbs-White, Ndiaye.
Shield’s Substitutes: A Davies, B Davies, Norrington-Davies, Baldock, Hourihane, Jebbison, Osula.
Shield’s Reasoning: For me, 10 of the eleven players who will begin this afternoon’s game select themselves. Both because of their form and fact United’s squad is still weakened by injury.
The only one who doesn’t is Ben Osborn. His contribution to United’s push into the top six has been hugely underestimated, because he has slotted into so many different positions and allowed the coaching staff to cover gaps elsewhere. Osborn isn’t a specialist wing-back, however, as Birmingham City’s Jeremie Bela reminded us on the opening weekend of the season.
So should Baldock come back in? Ordinarily I’d say ‘yes’, and that is no slight on Osborn whatsoever.
But ensuring their wing-backs and outside centre-halves get forward is crucial to how United perform. And Osborn, who can do this, has done well enough over the course of the last three matches to keep his place. I’m a huge admirer of Baldock. But, even taking into account his wonder goal against Swansea City, the 29-year-old could have done more in the opposition half this term.
So, bearing in mind United enter this fixture searching for a fourth straight win, I’d keep the same starting eleven and keep Baldock in reserve if Forest attempt to target Osborn as City did.
On the bench, Filip Uremoic probably misses out for the second match in a row. Not because he isn’t good. He is. But Heckingbottom needs more than one striker there. So Daniel Jebbison should join Will Osula among United’s replacements.