Lee Sobot looks at a few talking points ahead of Saturday’s Yorkshire derby at Sheffield Wednesday.
Will Liam Bridcutt make his new ‘debut’ at Hillsborough?
United’s tenth signing of the summer was paraded pitch-side at Elland Road on Tuesday, after which he was asked when he would make his first appearance of the season for the Whites.
“Hopefully Saturday but that’s the manager’s decision,” said the 27-year-old former loanee midfielder.
Such a fuss has been made of the need to sign Bridcutt as soon as possible that it would naturally seem a no-brainer that he would walk straight into the team.
But it’s worth bearing in mind that Bridcutt has been completely out of the picture at Sunderland and did not travel with the squad on their pre-season tour to France.
The midfielder will clearly have been keeping himself in good shape anyhow but there is no substitution for match sharpness and Liam Cooper took a while to return to the Whites fray and longer than initially expected after picking up a calf injury in pre-season. It seems likely that Bridcutt will start anyhow but it’s definitely not a given.
How is Garry Monk going to best utilise Pablo Hernandez?
This was one of the major talking points after Tuesday’s Fulham clash in which Hernandez showed glimpses of his undoubted quality but without looking totally at ease with United’s 4-4-2 formation.
There seems little doubt that the former Spanish international is at his happiest playing in the no 10 role but there’s a nagging feeling that he thrives most when tucked in just behind a lone striker.
The 31-year-old looked particularly impressive during the first half of the EFL Cup clash at Fleetwood Town when playing off lone striker Chris Wood.
Since then, Monk has opted for a 4-4-2 system, starting with Wood and Marcus Antonsson upfront and with Hernandez playing centrally in behind as an attacking midfielder.
But with Monk also picking two other very attacking midfielders out wide in both games since Fleetwood, this has placed more emphasis on the defensive side of Hernandez’s game which is not one of his natural strengths or traits.
Nobody can question his desire, he’s one of the busiest players on the pitch, but it’s fair to say that Monk is still attempting to find out just how to allow Hernandez’s talents to blossom best. He admitted that himself in his post-match Fulham press conference. The former Valencia and Swansea City man can also play on the wing and perhaps that is worth a try.
For Saturday, though, considering United will need to be tighter than normal away from home, perhaps Monk will revert to the same system used as at Fleetwood which, at the moment, seems to suit Hernandez best. With Ronaldo Vieira having replaced a disappointing Stuart Dallas as a second half sub on Tuesday, a guess at United’s front six for Saturday would be Bridcutt, Kalvin Phillips, Vieira, Kemar Roofe, Hernandez and Wood - with Marcus Antonsson ready and waiting if United need a new attacking spark.
Will a bicycle kick provide lift off for Chris Wood?
Much of Tuesday night’s post-match chatter concerned probably the most discussed member of United’s squad - Chris Wood.
Was he wise to cup his ear to the crowd after sensationally bagging a 93rd-minute equaliser - a goal which the striker clearly felt went a large way to silencing his critics?
There is no denying that Wood showed a fantastic amount of skill and athleticism to equalise in such a fashion - fair play to him - but the other side of the argument is that the striker had spurned several very good chances before. But there seems little doubt that Wood is a confidence player and it will be fascinating to see how he fares at Hillsborough. Whites head coach Garry Monk said in his post match press conference that he hoped the 1-1 draw with Fulham would provide lift off for his side. United’s fans will be hoping a 93rd-minute stunner means the same for Chris Wood.
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