Manchester United didn't exactly respond to their derby defeat to Manchester City in dazzling fashion on Wednesday (13 December) night. An uninspiring win over Bournemouth will not have erased the memories of Sunday's loss, but three more points and another clean sheet on a night where both Liverpool and Arsenal dropped points will have satisfied Jose Mourinho with a packed fixture schedule now in full swing.
United travel to the Hawthorns to take on Alan Pardew's West Bromwich Albion, fresh from holding Liverpool to a draw at Anfield. Changes in personnel will be expected, but what system will they use? A 3-5-2 formation delivered hugely impressive victories over Watford and Arsenal prior to that City defeat, before Mourinho reverted back to the 4-2-3-1 we saw more of at the start of the season against Pep Guardiola's side and the Cherries.
The three at the back system brought the best out of Ashley Young in a marauding wing-back role, making a telling contribution in those wins over Watford and Arsenal. Featuring for just seven minutes at the end of Wednesday's match after replacing Luke Shaw, Young seems certain to come back into the starting XI on Sunday, which could prompt the return of the system he has thrived in.
Despite Eric Bailly's absence, Mourinho has the options to select three at the back with Phil Jones fit again alongside Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Victor Lindelof and Axel Tuanzebe.
Mourinho had been wary of playing Antonio Valencia twice in a week earlier this season. Having played the full 90 on Wednesday, Tuanzebe could offer his services on the right against the Baggies, with Mourinho this week suggesting the 20-year-old will get his chances in the coming weeks.
United played perhaps their most incisive football of the season with that 3-5-2 formation, but the continued absence of Paul Pogba who was so key to its short run of success is a headache for Mourinho. Nemanja Matic has a habit of playing the full 90 in every Premier League match, failing to do that just once this season, and while Scott McTominay barely put a foot wrong at Old Trafford on Wednesday, Ander Herrera could come in for just his seventh starting appearance in the league.
Having seldom been used in the opening months in the season, we are inclined to suggest Jesse Lingard's already impressive energy levels are a tad higher than his teammates right now. Like Young, the 3-5-2 has brought the best out of him and with Pogba not around, his ability to drive forward with the ball will be important – particularly with Henrikh Mkhitaryan looking to be no closer to returning to the first-team.
What to do about Romelu Lukaku? The Belgium international has played every minute of United's 17 league matches, scoring his first goal in five games past Asmir Begovic last night. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is waiting in the wings, but Mourinho may have next week's Carabao Cup quarter-final clash with Bristol City in mind for the Swede's first start of the season. Lukaku looked particularly drained in the closing stages of the Bournemouth game, but dropping him having just maybe regained some confidence after heading home his 14h goal of the season doesn't seem likely.