West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini may opt for the unorthodox option of playing right back Pablo Zabaleta at left back against Manchester United, according to Claret & Hugh.
The outlet claims that the Chilean could switch the Argentine over to the left hand side of the Hammers’ defence, after regular incumbent Arthur Masuaku’s sending off against Aston Villa on Monday night.
England international Aaron Cresswell is the obvious choice to fill in for his fellow left back, but his poor form over the past year leaves the door open for Pellegrini to spring a shock.
Claret & Hugh’s report emphasises that United’s standard right-sided midfielder is Juan Mata, no spring chicken himself, making picking Zabaleta a relatively low-risk move.
It speaks volumes about how far Cresswell’s stock has fallen in east London that this is even a topic worthy of discussion. A couple of years ago it would have been inconceivable that Masuaku would be the first choice left back ahead of the 29-year-old, while the notion of an ageing right back being picked over Cresswell on the left would have seemed pure insanity. However, that’s very much a possibility as we stand here in the autumn of 2019. The point about Mata is a good one. He’s not skipping past many full backs these days, relying more on guile and skill to get the job done. Those are two qualities that Zabaleta still has in abundance, even at 34 years of age. However, there’s always the chance that United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could go for Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial on the right hand side of his attack, something that would give Zabaleta fits. Still, this might be a risk worth taking anyway, due to how bad Cresswell has been over the course of this calendar year.