We've mentioned previously how difficult it is to predict just what Sir Alex Ferguson will do with his Manchester United team on any given day, but a whole raft of injuries to crucial players plus the need to prioritise the Champions League match against Marseille on Tuesday constrains the managers options to the point that guessing at lineups isn't a total shot in the dark.
SB Nation's Kevin McCauley thinks that United are likely to run out a 4-4-2 against Arsenal, with Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez leading the line, but with two high-profile defeats on the bounce for United, the Busby Babe's Gene Um thinks that the club will switch things up for the FA Cup clash at Old Trafford:
United have lost their past two matches while playing in a '4-4-2' shape and with the lack of available wide players, I fully expect manager Sir Alex Ferguson to play in a '4-3-3/4-5-1' hybrid shape. Fergie has stated that "we will play our best available team."
It's somewhat depressing for United fans that after quoting the manager as saying that the best available team will be fielded, Gene then goes on to pencil in Gabriel Obertan on the right - as indicators of an injury crisis go, you don't get much more dire than that. Here's the Busby Babe's projected lineup in full:
Manchester United (4-3-3): Edwin van der Sar; Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling, Rafael da Silva; Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Darron Gibson; Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Gabriel Obertan.
It does seem fairly reasonable for the hosts to try to match Arsenal's midfield three, especially with Paul Scholes not expected to start, so the projected lineup of Carrick, Fletcher, and Gibson in the centre of the pitch makes some sense, but it's still a weak point in the team that the visitors may well march through. No matter what, though, United fans will be hoping that Carrick finds some semblance of passing range and that Gibson... gets better at football, I guess.