United were soundly beaten by their rivals on Sunday, losing 3-0 at Old Trafford. A brace from Erling Haaland and a late tap-in from Phil Foden sealed a resounding win for the blue half of Manchester, loading further pressure onto the shoulders of Erik ten Hag.
The United manager, though he is constantly having to deal with background noise being created by the prospect of Sir Jim Ratcliffe securing a 25 per cent stake in the club, was not immune from criticism for Sunday&aposs defeat, with his team selection sparking justified questions before a ball had even been kicked. Only he knows why Jonny Evans started ahead of Raphael Varane.
It was a baffling call, one which many United supporters will struggle to comprehend for a while. The same can be said for the way in which Ten Hag has continued to persist with underperforming players in recent weeks.
Almost three months into the season, the Reds are yet to click into gear, producing just one performance that has been both enjoyable and worthy of applause. That was their 3-0 triumph over a much-changed Crystal Palace team in the third round of the Carabao Cup.
Tonight&aposs fourth round tie against Newcastle at Old Trafford could also see the Reds face a much-changed team, with Magpies manager Eddie Howe hinting yesterday that changes could be in the offing. His side, like United, are competing in the Champions League this season, meaning tonight also marks their 15th game of the season as well.
Though Newcastle&aposs start to the campaign has been indifferent, they have more credit in the bank than United do so far, that is for sure, meaning almost all the pressure will be on Ten Hag&aposs side to get a result and progress to the quarter-finals. But in a bid to try and lift some of the doom and gloom, the Dutchman has got to do something that gets some of the supporters back onside.
Bruno Fernandes, who should be stripped of the captaincy, according to Roy Keane, and Marcus Rashford would be lucky to keep their places this evening. Neither of them have performed to their full potential so far this season, and they were shown up by Rasmus Hojlund in the derby.
The Danish international, 20, looked far more interested and determined to make something happen. He set an example that Fernandes and Rashford ought to have followed.
With Newcastle likely to make changes, Ten Hag should do the same, in a bid to inject fresh energy into his team and drop those who have failed to pull their weight in recent weeks. Considering Fernandes and Rashford joined Hojlund in attack on Sunday, only Hojlund deserves to retain his place, with both Fernandes and Rashford making way, just as they did against Palace in the last round.
Alejandro Garnacho, who has produced some encouraging cameos in recent weeks, would be a worthy winner of the left-wing spot. He deserves his first start since the cup triumph over Palace, in which he scored, and an opportunity to stake a claim for the weekend&aposs trip to Fulham.
On the opposite flank, Facundo Pellistri could be worthy of another opportunity as a starter, even though Antony will be looking to win his place back after starting the derby on the bench. Pellistri is still searching for his breakthrough moment at Old Trafford and will be hoping to get another opportunity to impress after failing to store a single minute under his belt during October.
An important caveat to highlight, though, is the fact Pellistri and Garnacho have struggled to influence games when starting them, both tending to cause more damage as impact players from the bench. However, they will only be able to improve on that by bagging more experience as starters.