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Opposition Research: Q&A with The Busby Babe

A check-in with the red side of Manchester ahead of Sunday’s match.

Manchester United v Nottingham Forest - Premier League Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Arsenal take on Manchester United at the Emirates on Sunday, so to get the inside scoop on the Red Devils, we checked in with our friends at The Busby Babe. We chatted with Site Manager Colin Damms about United’s summer business, the latest on the protests of the Glazers’ ownership of the club, and how Erik ten Hag might set up against the Gunners. Be sure to check out their podcast episode from this week where Colin and I previewed the match and had fun talking about Arsenal-Manchester United.

TSF: What’s the mood at Manchester United right now? How are things after the 2-1 start?

BB: It’s a little bit on edge. Some see positives from the early performances but for the most part there seems to be restlessness with the current style of play. I think a win or loss could go a long way in altering the mood due to the perceived slow start, despite having two wins.

TSF: Talk a little bit about Manchester United’s summer business. Did they fill all their needs? Are you happy with the signings?

BB: They certainly didn’t address all their needs, but ideally they set things in motion for the future. Andre Onana replacing David De Gea was a needed change for modernizing United’s style of play. Mason Mount is a solid creative talent in a position group that needed reinforcements and youthfulness. Rasmus Hojlund is unknown but very promising, filling a hole United have failed to successfully fill long term for a decade. Nothing is guaranteed, and it certainly wasn’t a summer to make us title contenders now, but the roster construction is moving in the right direction, guided by Erik ten Hag’s vision.

TSF: What’s going on with the fan protests of the Glazer’s ownership? Do you see that having any effect or is it sound and fury signifying nothing?

BB: I think in terms of visibility I think grievances have been taken more seriously in the media and the rest of the fanbase. The Mason Greenwood situation deservedly provoked much more outrage towards club leadership as well as the Glazers. Unfortunately we know by now that demonstrations have little effect on this ownership group, and the other options in the supposed bidding war are hardly better than the Glazers in terms of their motivation to own the club. I think at this point the Glazers are more likely to stay with only a minority stake in the club changing hands.

TSF: Who cursed Manchester United’s squad / what deity did they offend to have so many key injuries this early in the season? Who, exactly, is in the training room these days?

BB: This may be the price we pay to the football gods for winning 13 titles in 20 years :) But seriously, was the doctor poached from Arsenal a double agent?

TSF: Turning to Sunday’s match, how do you think Manchester United will line up? Will Erik ten Hag make any adjustments, either forced by injury or tactical specifically to counter / trouble Arsenal?

BB: I think we’ll see mostly the same XI that we saw against Forest, but with Varane obviously replaced by Victor Lindelof due to injury. We may see Sergio Reguilon at left back, but I think it may be too soon and we’ll ride with Diogo Dalot instead. Certainly won’t be our strongest XI, but it’s hard to say our preferred XI could be categorized as strong at this point in the season.

TSF: What areas of the pitch concern you? Where do you think United might be able to find some joy?

BB: Midfield. Eternally the midfield. There has been an interstate highway through the middle for the first three matches and players like Odegaard and Rice will eat that up, not to mention Arsenal’s forwards. United will leave space behind them when they do get forward, they’ll just have to find a way to live with it defensively.

TSF: And as always, what is your prediction for the scoreline?

BB: I’m going to say 1-1. It seems like both team might be feeling the pressure to get a big win, so a draw seems like a fitting anticlimax.