Do Manchester United have the most hotly contested position in the Premier League?
With six players all vying for one place in the team, you’d think so.
While Jose Mourinho seems to have a more settled side than when he first took over, he’s still given a weekly selection headache.
Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have established themselves as a surprise centre-back pairing over the last couple of months, while Paul Pogba , Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera are his preferred midfield trio, writes Rob Dawson in the Manchester Evening News.
Mourinho has so many players at his disposal that there are not enough games to go around.
Even with matches in the Premier League, League Cup and Europa League during the first half of the season, he has admitted to being ‘sad’ at not being able to play Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Ashley Young more often. After making a combined eight starts, they could all leave Old Trafford in January.
It is part of Depay’s problem, in particular, that there is so much competition for places.
He is the only natural left winger in the squad. But he is effectively sixth choice to play in a position no one, as yet, has claimed.
Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have all played there this season.
It shows the strength of Mourinho’s squad that Mata, who, two months ago was being talked about as one of United’s players of the season, has been on the bench for four of the last seven games.
Martial has started one of the last four, prompting speculation about loan move to Sevilla.
Rashford has not started a game in the Premier League since mid-November and has been linked with West Ham.
Paul Pogba plays five-a-side with pals
United have no intention of letting either player leave. But other clubs have started to fancy their chances because of how difficult it is to get into the United team.
As Mourinho has pointed out, United could end up playing as many as 60 games this season. And he will hope to give the likes of Martial and Rashford opportunities to play more often.
He will expect to make changes to his team this week, with games against Middlesbrough at home and West Ham away separated by just 48 hours.
Still, there can be few other positional battles at other clubs as fiercely contested as the fight to play on United’s left. It is the one place where the new sense of calm has not yet reached.