Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is facing quite the selection dilemma this weekend.
Manchester United travel to Tyneside without their first choice number nine in Anthony Martial, who misses out due to suspension. In ordinary times, new signing Edinson Cavani would slot straight into the starting XI, as the free-agent was brought in for these exact circumstances.
However, the Uruguayan will miss the fixture due to quarantine rules. Cavani arrived in England on October 4 and has to isolate for two weeks, having not been part of an athlete bubble.
In the absence of both of United’s striking options, we’ve looked into three alternatives for the trip to Newcastle.
Greenwood through the middle
The most obvious starting point, and probably the most likely. Mason Greenwood is being tipped to set-up down the middle, meaning a new-right winger will need to slot in. The two candidates, on paper, appear to be Juan Mata and Daniel James, both of whom started in the rotated cup side against Brighton last month.
It was the former who impressed most, drifting inside and pulling the strings, getting on the score-sheet and also taking home the man-of-the-match award. Mata’s ability to pop up in the half-spaces causes continuous problems for oppositions, and with Allan Saint-Maximin bombing forward, openings will be there to be exploited down the channel, on Saturday.
James continues to look ineffective in a United shirt, struggling to make an impact both on and off the ball. He registered the second least amount of touches out of the starting XI against Brighton, continuously dropping deep and clustering the play.
His touch-map, via WhoScored, highlights just how frustrating the Welshman was on the day.
He has done little to warrant a starting place in the XI this weekend, with Mata looking like the front-runner. The Spaniard was sharp in his last outing, and would provide some creative support to Greenwood up-top.
Solskjaer will have little qualms about setting up with the 19-year-old as the lone forward, but he will demand players around him, hence the likelihood of a Mata start.
If an attacking player is dropping out of Solskjaer’s XI, Donny van de Beek will be expecting to slot in. The summer signing is yet to start in the Premier League this season, but has impressed in every outing so far.
He was expectedly a class above against Luton Town, but also made his mark with a goal against Crystal Palace, before then registering an assist away to Brighton in the cup.
Operating between the lines, Van de Beek has shown a willingness to break into the final third and make unselfish runs down either channel. His advanced positioning has helped the side transition into attacking areas, and he could break into the midfield this weekend.
There has been much debate as to ‘where does he fit in’, specifically focusing on the offensive minded duo of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. Well, a new shape could be introduced, to make-shift for all three creative figures.
With Greenwood and Marcus Rashford deployed up-top, there will be plenty of space in the middle to set-up with the diamond. Both Van de Beek and Bruno could interchange and push forward, leaving Pogba and Nemanja Matic to form a double pivot, where required.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles are capable of offering the width, and it’s a system that would show a sign of intent, right from the off.
Big day for the new boy?
Although Cavani will miss the game, other United new boy Facundo Pellistri is available, according to Talksport.
The Uruguayan is a right-sided player, and could fill in for Greenwood, should the latter be moved central. Pellistri arrived from Penarol on transfer deadline day, and the club will want to pragmatically manage the 18-year-old.
However, football is all about timing and moments. After a sluggish beginning to the season, the forward could be relishing the opportunity of an immediate start in red, and offer some new life inside the final third.
He’s a direct player that enjoys coming forward with the ball at his feet and with Newcastle looking to be without first-choice left-back Jamal Lewis, it could be his chance to shine.
It would certainly be a big call, but Solskajer will no doubt be pondering the decision. There are a few different outcomes with which the Norwegian can try out, but the pressure is there for United to deliver on Saturday night.