It should be a definite three points on paper but nothing is definite for Manchester United these days except for the prospect of putting an inconsistent performance. Man United welcome newly-promoted Luton Town to Old Trafford aiming to recover from the loss to FC Copenhagen in Denmark which has their Champions League campaign hanging by a thread.
For Erik ten Hag, this season has had it all, and all of it has been on the worse side. Be it injuries, referee decisions, fallout with players, tactical choices, or ultimately, the results, nothing has been good enough.
Still, that should be no reason to not beat Luton Town, especially Old Trafford.
Here’s the match preview, analysis, team news, and all you need to know as Man United take on Luton Town hoping to string consecutive wins in the league:
WHEN & WHERE?
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester.
When: Sunday, 11th November, 2023.
Time: 3 PM BST
Referee: Graham Scott.
Assistants: Neil Davis & Eddie Smart.
Fourth official: Darren England.
VAR: Robert Jones.
Assistant VAR: Simon Long.
For Manchester United this season, no two good things can happen at the same time. Whenever a player returns from injury, it’s like they need to send one back to the physio room.
Jonny Evans added to Erik ten Hag’s headache in the midweek fixture as he had to come off with an apparent hamstring injury, further thinning the defensive options. Raphael Varane came on for him and had a nightmare game.
As it stands, Varane and Harry Maguire are Man United’s only centre-back options, unless Victor Lindelof shakes off his illness in time for this game.
The goalkeeping situation is sorted with Andre Onana regaining form but the midfield is another area of concern. Sofyan Amrabat can’t seem to find any form, Mason Mount has been dubiously relegated to a bench role, Casemiro is not in form either, and Christian Eriksen can’t be the controller and destroyer all at once.
The attack looks in better shape after the midweek game with Rasmus Hojlund continuing his hot streak in the Champions League. An unchanged attacking quartet of Hojlund, Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho, and Bruno Fernandes is expected.
Luton Town have also had some injury problems, although not to the extent to which United have. But then again, their squad is not that deep either so they have struggled this season.
Amar’i Bell might return to action after recovering from a thigh injury in the sole boost to the Hatters for this game. They unbelievably achieved a draw at home to Liverpool last game so there are unlikely to be many changes to that lineup barring any late injury troubles.
It felt like Luton Town finally found a formula to be competitive in the Premier League against Liverpool. They sat back, held their shape well and flew away on the counter to get some good quality shots instead of quantity.
Despite having just 26% possession, they had five shots on target compared to Liverpool’s six. In Townsend, Chong, and Ogbene, they’ve got speedsters as well as smart players in the frontline who flourish when given space in behind.
For Man United, that’s a nightmare matchup. A lack of movements in the front line off the ball has become a running theme for Manchester United this season as they have failed to break down deep-lying defences. Their forwards look great running on the break, mainly feeding off Fernandes’ audacious passes, but they lack the technical skills and creativity to break blocks of defences.
Playing the ball quickly forward can lead to them getting caught on the break and if Luton strike first and get something to hold on to, it could become a day of attrition for United.
Their best hope will be to replicate the smart interplay they showed for the first goal against Copenhagen to stretch Luton Town out wide and get an early goal. Game management will be key then, something which United have also lacked.
This wouldn’t be a difficult game for United generally but these are not general times for the club. Luton are good at everything United are bad at, and that’s worrying for Erik ten Hag.
Considering his play, it is remarkable to note that Hojlund has yet to score in the Premier League. That is mainly because, unlike the more expansive Champions League, PL teams rarely give United attackers space to weave their magic.
The Dane has also shown that provided the attackers create chances for him, he will be in the right position to put those away. Against United, he might be the sole striker lining up against Luton’s trio of centre-backs if manager Rob Edwards keeps up his three-at-the-back formation.
In such a scenario, the onus will be on him to make the life of Luton’s CBs as uncomfortable as possible with his hustle and desire. Of course, United’s attackers need to make sure he is supplied with chances so he doesn’t have to drop deep to look for the ball and thus remove their focal point up front.
If he can repeat his midweek exploits, his rising star will start booming.
The Zimbabwean has been a steady presence for Luton this season, playing the most minutes of any outfielder in the team. He is the glue which holds the team together and does the dual job of linking the midfield with defence and the attack.
As the defensive midfielder, he fulfils the role of the destroyer, regularly putting in tackles and intercepting the balls because Luton have been on the end of some heavy attacking pressure in nearly every game.
He is in the 98th percentile of tackles/90 with 3.42, showing just how busy he has to remain in the middle of the park. That will be crucial against United, especially as the Red Devils have been prone to being overrun in midfield this season.
If Nakamba can bring his combative best to Old Trafford, United might be in for a rude awakening.
Man United predicted lineup vs Luton Town: Onana; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Varane, Dalot; Casemiro, Eriksen; Fernandes, Garnacho, Rashford; Hojlund.
Luton Town predicted lineup vs Man United: Kaminski; Mengi, Lockyer, Osho, Kabore; Nakamba, Barkley, Doughty; Chong, Ogbene, Morris.