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How Manchester United could line up in the UEFA Champions League against Basel

Manchester United face Basel in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening, their penultimate match of the group stage needing just a point to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition. United beat Basel at Old Trafford earlier in the season with Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku, and Marcus Rashford on the scoresheet. United have played Basel five times, winning twice, drawing twice and losing just once in the 15 years which have passed since the first game between the two sides. Jose Mourinho will be without Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, and Michael Carrick for this match, which is important for United if they want to confirm their place in the round of 16 with a game to go.

United have an easier ride this month – facing Basel in Switzerland, then Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford followed by Watford away. Next month, sandwiched in the middle of a trip to Arsenal and the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, United will entertain CSKA Moscow in the final group stage match of the Champions League. It will be one of nine matches in December, so for United, winning in Basel will be important as the final group stage match will be a dead rubber and less of a problem for Mourinho, who could play fringe players and youth in that final match, meaning those who played against Arsenal three days before will get a weeks rest ahead of the first derby of the season.

Starting XI and Formation Prediction:

Mourinho has tried the 3-5-2/3-4-3 variation a few times this season and during pre-season, so it is possible the manager will utilise this formation again. United are away from home, so there is a much better chance seeing this away rather than at Old Trafford. Mourinho has bags of talent in his squad this season and allowing only three defenders gives United immense power in midfield, the wings and in attack. Mourinho said himself that he can play three at the back to allow both strikers; Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to play, even Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, or any variation of the forwards.

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Goalkeeper: David De Gea

The Spanish number one is crucial to Manchester United winning something or nothing this season. There is currently talk of Real Madrid lurking in the shadows again, despite other rumours suggesting they have their eyes on another Spanish goalkeeper. The rumours will probably never go away – until the players retires whether that is at United or elsewhere. De Gea has shown many times this season just why he is the United number one.

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Back Three: Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind

Three at the back if a formation United can use sparingly. Not something that should be played all the time. If it can be sorted in a permanent way, it is something United can implement in big matches away from home, or even change the playing style late in a match – even at Old Trafford. Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are both out of action for United, which leaves Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo as the fit, experienced central defenders with Axel Tuanzebe also eligible to play. Putting Lindelof, Smalling, who is already a confirmed starter and Blind could be what United need to get the point(s) they need in Basel.

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Wing Backs: Ashley Young, Luke Shaw

This is an area Manchester United could be stronger in, especially on the left side. Antonio Valencia will probably be rested for this match, keeping him fit for the visit of Brighton on Saturday, possibly even the visit to Watford next week. This could leave Matteo Darmian or Ashley Young for the right side, the latter in this instance and Luke Shaw, who has been part of the squad to face Newcastle on Saturday but did not get off the bench. Mourinho could give Shaw a chance to show his worth and maybe get a chance to have a string of matches as United left-back, or left wing-back in this instance. I don’t think it will happen though as rumour suggests Shaw is out of the club come the New Year – we shall see if those rumours are true in good time.

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Midfield: Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba made his influential return against Newcastle on Saturday, commanding United to a victory, albeit from behind. The Frenchman was the Man of the Match, scoring a goal and assisting another – showing what United had missed for the past two months. Nemanja Matic did what he normally does, largely unnoticed which is the way he prefers. Pogba and Matic are a great midfield partnership. In this formation, it could work much better in United’s advantage with Pogba orchestrating the attacking and doing what he does best. Now the ABU’s and those who suggest Pogba was a waste of money know why United and Mourinho wanted him.

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Attacking Midfield: Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Whether you use Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Juan Mata, this formation, with those behind them, could be a lively one for United. The creativity within this side is pretty immense – even one of the central defender is a ball-player – Lindelof. Mock him if you will but those who have short memories need to look back at Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra – both players had questionable starts to their United careers. Against Basel, Martial and Mkhitaryan could inspire United to a victory in Switzerland, obtaining the point – and more – needed to earn a place in the round of 16 next year.

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Striker: Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku broke his goal drought with a thundering effort against Newcastle United, United’s fourth of the day at the Theatre of Dreams. The Belgian had not scored for United in seven matches sandwiched in between the two international breaks, scoring for Belgium on both – the latest one becoming the top scorer for the country – which has not been recognised by FIFA. Lukaku has the confidence to get amongst the goals again, especially as his best friend, Paul Pogba is again fit and playing at the top of his ability. Lukaku has scored 12 times for United in all competitions this season, he will soon reach the dizzy heights of 20+, proving he was what United needed – and more.

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