Manchester United found themselves in the same position last year, claiming wins over AFC Bournemouth, Southampton and Hull City, only to very quickly see any their form vanish in the space of a week following the international break.
Defeat to Manchester City, Feyenoord and Watford didn’t just raised questions over Jose Mourinho’s side, it condemned them to an endless spiral of being close to the top four but ultimately consigned to sixth throughout the season.
Needless to say, Mourinho cannot afford to head down the same avenue this time around. The Old Trafford club need to set the tone ahead of an important month in which they begin their return to the Champions League and League cup defense.
And that starts with a potentially rocky encounter with Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium on September 9. Here are three players Mourinho must play against Mark Hughes’ side.
The Spaniard has only played five minutes of action this season as the former Chelsea boss has now been able to sit back and watch Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic dominate lesser sides. Still, Mourinho will want to call on Herrera’s tenacious influence ahead of what promises to be furiously paced encounter.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Jese Rodriguez will most likely be use as inverted wingers and in turn, Herrera’s running power, coupled with an onus on moving play forward, is necessary in the match-up with Stoke.
The youngster was left on the bench during our win over Leicester City and immediately left his manager with a notable selection dilemma. With the game level, Rashford provided a crucial opener, paving the way for an ultimately comfortable win.
Anthony Martial did little wrong last weekend, but the clash with Stoke will require more defensive discipline with wingers having to fall back. Mourinho must give Rashford the chance to be in his lineup against the Stoke as the England international is a powerful, committed runner capable of doing a job defensively and offensively far better than Martial.
There is likely not a striker in the Premier League that would favor their chances up against Eric Bailly right now. Ever since the start of United’s pre-season fixtures, the Ivorian has been an intractable force, dominating aerial battles and preventing strikers from even getting a foot on the ball, let alone doing anything dangerous with it.
He will not feature against Basel as he serves the final game of his suspension, making his presence at the back against Stoke – most likely alongside the in-form Phil Jones – something of a necessity.