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Luton Town grabbed attention last season by clinching promotion to the Premier League

Last season, Luton Town made headlines when they secured promotion to the top-flight of English football. Their inspiring story took them from playing non-league football to competing with the biggest clubs in the Premier League. The Hatters have come a long way, and their journey is nothing short of a fairytale. Although it took some time for the team to get used to the intensity of top-flight football, they have coped reasonably well so far. Currently, they are sitting in 17th position and a point outside the relegation zone. Manager Rob Edwards has made up for the lack of quality in the squad with some clever tactics and coaching. Their displays have won the admiration of viewers around the world.

Luton Town has proved to be a tough opposition to beat this season, especially when playing at Kenilworth Road. The stadium has the potential to be a cauldron on big days. With a club as big as United visiting, the Old Girl faithful will be sure to create a raucous atmosphere.

Manchester United will be heading into the game with a lot of noise around the club. Reports speculate that the club is negotiating with Newcastle United for their sporting director Dan Ashworth, who has agreed to move to Manchester to help awaken the sleeping giant. It will be the second appointment the club has made since INEOS and Sir Jim Ratcliffe took over the footballing side of United after acquiring a 25% stake in the club. It is seen as a step in the right direction and fans are understandably excited for the arrival of Ashworth, who certainly has the pedigree and the track record to back him up.

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On the pitch, however, Man United come into this game amidst their best form of the season and seem to have finally found their footing. An important win last time out against Aston Villa saw the Red Devils put their name in the hat for a top four finish as the season gradually draws to a close. With 13 games to play, United find themselves in 6th albeit just six points off the fourth place. Their win in Birmingham last weekend saw them cut the gap to Villa in 5th place to five points with many speculating that a fifth-place finish might just be enough to make the Champions League for next season. While it may or may not be enough, Erik ten Hag will want to have the club’s fate in their own hands and will want a top four finish to cement their place in the UCL.

WHEN AND WHERE:

Date: Sunday, 18th February 2024.
Time: 4.30 pm GMT.
Venue: Kenilworth Road, Luton, UK.

MATCH OFFICIALS:

Referee: David Coote.
Assistants: Simon Bennett, Tim Wood.
Fourth official: Tom Bramall.
VAR: Jarred Gillett.
Assistant VAR: Marc Perry.

TEAM NEWS:

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Luton Town will be without defender Tom Lockyer as he continues to recover since suffering from a cardiac arrest on the pitch a few weeks ago and will be on the sidelines till he is cleared to return. Similarly, the Hatters will be without midfielder Marvelous Nakamba and defender Mads Andersen. Apart from the trio, Rob Edwards should have a fully fit squad to choose from on Sunday.

Manchester United will be without long-term absentees Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez, and Anthony Martial. There is a doubt whether Mason Mount will be available as he recovers from a long spell on the sidelines. Luke Shaw was taken off at half-time last weekend in Birmingham with Erik ten Hag later describing it as a precautionary measure, but the Englishman is in a race to be fit come Sunday, the manager confirmed in his pre-match press conference.

MATCH ANALYSIS:

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The Hatters know that every point counts from now on as they battle hard for survival in the top flight. They sit in 17th place, one point clear of Everton in 18th and just four points behind 15th placed Crystal Palace, although Luton have game in hand over those around them. They have worked hard to get out of the relegation zone and were given a helping hand with Everton’s points deduction, but Rob Edwards and his men know that they a good run of form from this point on might just ensure their survival in the Premier League. Both teams are in desperate need of points and can ill afford dropping points.

The last time these two sides met, United huffed and puffed their way to a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, with Victor Lindelof scoring the winner around the hour mark. Not many expected the Hatters to put up strong resistance, but they were firm and organized, and the Red Devils worked hard to get three points. Fast forward three months since then, Luton Town have given the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle United and Spurs headaches, as they have proved to be a resilient outfit. Their last few games have been marred with inconsistencies as their attack who had scored 4 goals in consecutive games against Brighton and Hove Albion in a 4-0 win and Newcastle United in a 4-4 draw, were stifled against fellow relegation candidates Sheffield United as they lost 3-1 at home.

Man United will look to capitalize on the defensive frailties of the Hatters as the Red Devils now look settled and Erik ten Hag seems to have found his ideal starting XI albeit without Lisandro Martinez. Their front three of Rashford, Højlund and Garnacho seems to work quite well with each other and the coach will look to exploit the Luton defense with the pace and trickery of United’s young attack. In the engine room, Casemiro and Kobbie Mainoo have fit together better than anything the United fans could have hoped for.

It is not exactly David v Goliath on Sunday, but Kenilworth Road will sure to be bouncing when one of the biggest clubs in England set foot and Luton will have a big task on their hand if they want to come away with anything from the game, especially with the form United are in. Odds are on the Red Devils coming away with a comfortable win, but if Premier League football has taught us anything over the years, it is that its not always as straightforward as it seems.

KEY PLAYERS:

Carlton Morris

The English forward is enjoying a stellar first season in the Premier League, continuing over his form from the Championship. The striker’s 20 goals last season in the second division helped the Hatters to promotion, and he is now their top goal contributor this season in the league with 6 goals and 6 assists so far. He has been instrumental for the newly promoted side and is on a good run of form coming into Sunday’s game. Morris has scored three and assisted two in his last four league games and has paid off Rob Edward’s faith in him. He will be the dangerman for the Hatters on Sunday, along with Ross Barkley who has formed a good partnership with him.

Rasmus Højlund

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It was five goals in five starts for the young Dane as he continued his superb goalscoring form last weekend against Aston Villa, with a smartly taken goal. He showed great awareness to stay onside and score after the ball came off Harry Maguire who beat the Villa defense in the air following a corner. Throughout the game Højlund showed his various skills as he worked tirelessly on and off the ball, creating space for the likes of Rashford and Garnacho to cut in. He is proving to be an essential part of the squad and at just 21 he looks vastly comfortable leading the line against the toughest of opponents.

PREDICTED LINEUPS:

LUTON TOWN XI: Thomas Kaminski; Teden Mengi, Gabriel Osho, Amari’i Bell; Issa Kabore, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Ross Barkley, Alfie Doughty; Jordan Clark, Carlton Morris; Elijah Adebayo.

MANCHESTER UNITED XI: Andre Onana; Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Casemiro, Kobbie Mainoo; Alejandro Garnacho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Rasmus Højlund.

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