Manchester United: Last-Minute Team News and Potential Starting XI vs. West Brom

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIDecember 28, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on December 15, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Manchester United will take on West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League this weekend, looking to head into 2013 with a solid lead in the title race.

The Red Devils are already seven points clear of second-placed Manchester City, who play a difficult fixture to Norwich City this weekend, and can at least hold the gap at seven points should they pick up all three points against the Baggies this week.

Steve Clarke's men have no doubt been the surprise team of the season to date—only goal-difference keeping them outside the league's top four—but will face one of their toughest tests for the year when they travel to the Theatre of Dreams.

United will have a number of players out with injury and returning from time on the sidelines, giving us lots to get through in our last-minute team news.

Let's take a look at all the in's and out's for the Red Devils' clash against West Brom and see if we can predict Sir Alex Ferguson's starting side as well.

Players out for Manchester United

Speaking via the club's official website, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson hinted that a number of United players could be missing from their clash against West Brom this weekend—stating that the short turnaround will affect the older players and those already carrying injuries.

I can't give you an update on the injuries as it's only two days on from Wednesday and there were issues with a soft, tiring pitch.

We need to assess players like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs as I think, at their age, it took a lot out of them.

[Wayne] Rooney is out for at least another two games. He was a bit better yesterday. We're going to assess Phil Jones but I don't think he'll be ready.

BBC Sport is reporting that midfielder Shinji Kagawa could also be making his return to the first team after two months out with injury. However, whilst they report he could return, the Japanese international would only make the substitutes bench and would be unlikely to be used unless the game was well and truly over for the Red Devils.

Captain Nemanja Vidic is also likely to miss the match against the Baggies after complaining of soreness in his knee against Swansea City (per Goal).

Players returning for Manchester United

Whilst a number of players will be out for United, several players will also be returning to give the Red Devils a huge boost in this one. Ferguson spoke about some of the players who should return this week against West Brom (per the official Manchester United website):

We're hoping maybe [Ashley] Young will be ready and Daniel Welbeck should be ready. He was ill on Tuesday night but I think he should be okay. At least that's a couple of bodies back fresh for us. We'll just assess the rest in terms of tiredness.

Yahoo! Sports reports that several United midfielders could find be available for selection here, though they will most likely be game-day decisions. 

Anderson, Rafael and Nani (all hamstring) are scheduled to return but may have to settle for places on the bench if they are fit.

Phil Jones is also listed as a game-day decision by BBC Sport.

Potential Starting XI vs. West Bromwich Albion

With all of that in mind, let's see if we can piece together a starting team for Manchester United to beat West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League this weekend.

Starting at the back will likely be David De Gea, who appears to have reclaimed his starting position once more from Anders Lindegaard this season.

Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand are all likely starters in defense for United, with the main issue coming at right-back and who to play this week.

The likes of Rafael Da Silva and Phil Jones would both be picked ahead of Chris Smalling if they were completely healthy, but with their status unknown, Smalling is the general consensus to start on the right. I also wouldn't rule out seeing Jones this week—thinking that the defender may well have recovered from his knock in time of this match.

As far as midfield goes, expect to see Tom Cleverley back in the middle after being rested for 70 minutes last week against Newcastle United.

The England international has been strong this season alongside Michael Carrick, and Ferguson will likely try and build the pair once more this weekend.

As far as the wingers go, expect Giggs to be rested here following his excellent second half last week—maybe rested for a return for Welbeck on the left flank.

Welbeck has played out on the left several times before for United this year and is expected to return from injury. If Ashley Young fails to make the first team, then Welbeck is the next best option. So expect the England striker out on the left if Young doesn't pass his fitness test.

Antonio Valencia is an easy pick out on the right flank.

That leaves us with just the strikers remaining for Manchester United, and with Rooney out and Welbeck on the left, Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez are both likely starters this week—simply for the fact United have no other real options up front.

Van Persie has been simply devastating for the Red Devils this year, and Hernandez continues to find the back of the net whenever he finds himself on the field this season. Both will likely cause havoc against the West Brom defense in this one.

How should Manchester United line up vs. West Brom?

Comment below or hit me up on Twitter:  


    Report: Liverpool Bid $210M (£158M) for Madrid's Asensio 🙃

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Report: Liverpool Bid $210M (£158M) for Madrid's Asensio 🙃

    Naveen Ullal
    via Sport Witness

    Ex-Liverpool Defender Jose Enrique Had Surgery on Brain Tumour

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Ex-Liverpool Defender Jose Enrique Had Surgery on Brain Tumour

    via mirror

    Shaqiri: the Man with Two Flags on His Boots 🇽🇰🇨🇭

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Shaqiri: the Man with Two Flags on His Boots 🇽🇰🇨🇭

    The Players' Tribune
    via The Players' Tribune

    Why 'Chucky' Lozano's the Real FIFA GOAT 🇲🇽

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Why 'Chucky' Lozano's the Real FIFA GOAT 🇲🇽

    B/R Video
    via Bleacher Report