After an emphatic win against Premier League Champions Leicester City, Manchester United will be looking to consolidate their good form with a third consecutive win. Zorya Luhansk, though relatively unheard of outside their native Ukraine, represents motivated opposition for sure, but United will be opportunistic about their chances of coming away with three points. Squad rotation, cagey football, and jet lag seem to be the themes so far for United in the Europa League this season, but will wins and goals become a part of that list? Daniel Hazell, Iain Ridley, Steven Custons, Adem Berkay, and I, Aaron Moniz, call the shots for United’s first Thursday night at Old Trafford.
Daniel Hazell: The horror week is seemingly behind Manchester United as they go into the UEFA Europa League fixture against FC Zorya Luhansk off the back of two victories in a row. United won 4-1 against the Champions of England, Leicester City, at the weekend so the confidence has been turned back up a level or two at Old Trafford. The game against the Foxes was perhaps the best any United side has performed for quite some time now. If Jose Mourinho and co are keen about the Europa League then Thursday is a game that they must treat with seriousness after the club fell short in Rotterdam against Feyenoord in the first fixture of the campaign, two defeats on the bounce will leave the club with little room to slip up in the remaining four fixtures.
Let’s face it, any Manchester United side should see off the Ukrainian outfit quite comfortably, although a mixture of keeping the momentum going and resting a few key faces will be key.
Starting XI: De Gea, Fosu-Mensah, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Carrick, Schneiderlin, Pogba; Lingard, Memphis, Rooney.
My inclusion of Rooney is perhaps not what I would like to happen, given his current form, but it is going off Mourinho’s suggestions that he may start the next fixture after sitting out the last one. The reason I would select Memphis is because he is a player who needs confidence and that can only come with playing time – if he could get a goal and/or an assist in this game it could do him a world of good. Despite the fact Zorya sit second in the Ukrainian Premier League respectively, I feel that the aforementioned eleven should pick up all three point’s, especially given it is the home fixture.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 FC Zorya Luhansk.
Iain Ridley: Thanks to a quality first half performance against Leicester, United face Ukrainian minnows Zorya Luhansk. I can’t see United facing any difficulties in this one and for me, won’t concede a goal. I’m backing a 5-0 victory with Rooney getting 2 and “Mr Europa League” Memphis to bag one as a confidence booster. I know Zorya managed a 1-1 draw at home to Fenerbahce but I don’t see them threatening United in attack and will most likely sit with 10 men behind the ball all game.
Starting XI: Romero; Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Carrick; Young, Mata, Memphis; Rooney
For my line-up I’ve gone for a similar one to the team that started against Northampton Town in the EFL cup, starting with Romero in goal, he was awful then and might well be tomorrow but it gives De Gea a break for Sunday. A back four of Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Blind, and Rojo. Again Rojo was exposed but the rest performed well against the League 1 side as well as Smalling and Blind having “Blind-ers” against Leicester. I expect Herrera and Pogba to be rested with Schneiderlin and Carrick coming in, Mata will stay as a number 10 as there aren’t many options there. Memphis and Young were both exciting against Northampton and expect them to be heavily involved once again. Finally, Rooney to come back into the team as Captain and striker with Rashford on the bench. I also expect Mourinho will be keen to give Mkhitaryan and Shaw some game time but probably from the bench.
Prediction: Manchester United 5-0 Zorya Luhansk
Steven Custons: I’d be lying I said I had heard of FC Zorya Luhansk of Ukraine before Thursday’s Europa League encounter at Old Trafford but given United’s shortcomings in the Premier League last term, these are the kind of teams we can be expecting to face in Europe this season. The EFL Cup victory over Northampton Town papered over the cracks following three successive defeats in all competitions – including the Reds Europa League opener against Feyenoord – but the 4-1 demolition of Premier League champions Leicester City at the weekend showed what can be achieved with this set of players. I literally have no idea what eleven players Jose Mourinho will opt for on Thursday, we don’t really know what to expect from the Ukrainian side, therefore my predicted lineup is a bit of a stab in the dark;
Starting XI: De Gea; Fosu-Mensah, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; Pogba, Carrick; Mkhitaryan, Herrera, Rashford; Rooney
I’ve gone for Timothy Fosu-Mensah to come in for Antonio Valencia at right back but other than that I think Mourinho will go for the same back line that started at the weekend. Paul Pogba keeps his place following his performance against the Foxes on Saturday and he will be partnered with Michael Carrick allowing Ander Herrera to influence the game in the attacking third. Juan Mata sits this one out for me while Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Wayne Rooney replace Jesse Lingard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic respectively.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 FC Zorya Luhansk
Adem Berkay: European football at Old Trafford is supposed to bring drama, excitement, and mystique to the fans of Manchester United. Unfortunately, facing Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League is hardly the box office fixture that has people on the edge of their seats. Nevertheless, Thursday night is an opportunity to kick-start a European campaign that faltered on opening night and a win is badly needed if United are to progress in this competition. At the very least it should be an opportunity for Jose Mourinho to rest several first team players ahead of another important Premier League fixture at the weekend. With that in mind, Wayne Rooney is likely to return to the side, with Carrick, Memphis and Schneiderlin amongst those I’d like to see given a chance in the team this week.
Starting XI: (4-3-3) De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Bailly, Rojo; Carrick, Schneiderlin, Fellaini; Young, Rooney, Memphis
United should have far too much firepower for their Ukrainian opponents and I’d expect a comfortable home win. After destroying Leicester with such a powerful and intense performance at the weekend, it is important the players maintain those standards. This week is a chance to lay down a marker. Beat Leicester, win in Europe and then win again at the weekend. Anything less and question marks will inevitably be asked. I hope to see a positive performance from Wayne Rooney, who will be hoping to make an impact once again, while Michael Carrick will remain vitally important in midfield.
Prediction: Manchester United 4-0 Zorya Luhansk
Aaron Moniz: I’m looking forward to seeing United against Zorya Luhansk because of the form, not the fixture- Jose Mourinho’s men looked fluid and sharp against Leicester City and I want to see if the gaffer can replicate it with his rotational squad. I also want to see youth, and United needs options when Antonio Valencia and Eric Bailly aren’t around, which is why I’ve gone with Joe Riley and Axel Tuanzebe, along with Marcos Rojo in central defence. Matteo Darmian makes my lineup at left-back as an experiment, with Morgan Schneiderlin alongside Timothy Fosu-Mensah (even though it’ll probably be Carrick) in midfield.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan needs to be eased in and playing behind the striker against Zorya is the best way to do exactly that. The same goes for Europa League merchant Memphis, who played his best allround game for the club against FC Midtjylland. Ashley Young plays on the right because no one else is there. Up front, I’ve gone with Wayne Rooney, because Anthony Martial needs a rest and all the youth strikers were loaned out.
Starting XI: De Gea; Riley, Tuanzebe, Rojo, Darmian; Schneiderlin, Fosu-Mensah; Young, Mkhitaryan, Memphis; Rooney
United should have an easy time dominating the game, but Zorya is going to defend with everything they have- expect a physical side too, as often is the case in the second tier European Leagues like the Ukranian one. With Wayne Rooney up top, United could struggle to score more than 2-3, but I’m hoping for a solid win and a great performance from the likes of Mkhitaryan and Memphis.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Zorya Luhansk