Manchester United travels to the patriotic footballing nation of Turkey to play Fenerbahce, a side that, though talented, could not match the firing form of United’s front five. Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard ran rampant as United put four goals past Robin van Persie’s new side, but all eyes were on the Dutchman as he scored a goal at Old Trafford, one that was celebrated tremendously by the United fans. This time, though, there is less focus on van Persie and more on simply watching the bore of Europa League football. Strangely, though, Fenerbahce has become home to former and future Premier League talents that could figure on the scoresheet alongside United this time.
Jeremain Lens, Winger, Fenerbahce
Jeremain Lens, much like Memphis, was a rampant winger for Dynamo Kiev in 2014/15 before earning a big-money move to a Premier League club. While Memphis has been afforded the time to succeed at Manchester United, Lens was not given the same luxury at Sunderland, and now he plays for Fenerbahce.
In Turkey, though, it seems he has found his best form once again. Mainly of the right side of attack for Fenerbahce, Lens has used his cutting-edge right foot and rapid movement to fashion out opportunities, and the results have been nothing short of great- with a goal and four assists in five domestic appearances, Lens has been Fenerbahce’s best player, according to WhoScored. Against United, Lens will likely be the player to create chances for van Persie.
Ozan Tufan, Midfielder, Fenerbahce
In a Turkish outfit that struggled massively at the Euros, Ozan Tufan was one of the standout players, doing diligent defensive work and distributing the ball well from the heart of midfield and scoring Turkey’s only goal at the competition. His performances, at the tender age of 21, Tufan showed his potential to be one of the best midfielders in Europe in the coming years. As United searches everywhere for the heir to Michael Carrick’s throne, United could easily find an alternative in Tufan, who has been quietly good for Fenerbahce so far this season and was linked with United by (relatively unreliable) Turkish media outlets.
From two defensive midfield starts this season, Tufan has averaged a match rating of 8.12 for Fenerbahce this season, scoring twice in the process. He also has a goal and assist in his eight appearances from central midfield, though they are less impressive statistically. He isn’t quite the same player as Carrick- he seems to be more of a defensive presence, and a standout statistic is the 2.3 fouls he wins every match. If he gets the midfield ticking, Fenerbahce could prove to be a test for United, who needs to do well in the Europa League in case the Premier League slump continues any longer.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Right Midfield/Forward, Manchester United
The Armenian has not featured for Manchester United since the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford on the 10th September. He played in the first half, and after pulling up for his native Armenia during the international break, suffering a thigh injury, he was obviously not fully fit to face the noisy neighbours. The weeks have gone by and Mkhitaryan, despite not being free of injury, has trained with his United teammates, but has not been selected as a starter, or a player on the bench for recent matches, despite being in the larger squad which was whittled down to 18-men on the day of the match. Many have moaned at Mkhitaryan’s absence and the media have been allowed to write negative articles suggesting the player will leave the club during the January transfer window, which to be said at this time is obsured.
Mkhitaryan is a great player, he took two years to find his feet in Germany with Borrussia Dortmund, something the media have not bothered themselves to finf out, probably because it did not fit their agenda of always being negative when they talk about Manchester United, as at the end of the day, opposition fans seem to like reading about Manchester United, a lot more then they do their own clubs. Mkhitaryan needs time to adapt, find his feet and get to grips with the Premier League. Playing him in Turkey might ease the pressure a little. Allowing him to find his feet with his teammates in a match which will not see the same amount of pressure as he faced against Manchester City almost two months ago.
Anthony Martial, Winger, Manchester United
Regardless of the bright, sparkling words around United’s young talents (not necessarily youth), including Luke Shaw, Eric Bailly, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Marcus Rashford, United’s brightest future prospect remains Anthony Martial, who brings electricity and flair beyond most players in world football already. Martial stunned the media, who wrote him off before he kicked a football, last season, but has struggled with fitness and form this season and hasn’t figured enough. Featuring for a matter of minutes against Stoke City, before the International Break, Martial scored a stunner, unsurprisingly.
Despite being out of form, Martial still has a goal and two assists to his name for United this season already, with plenty of time to turn it around. He is an exceptional talent, and I believe he remains United’s greatest attacking threat, even with the additions of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the side. Hopefully, Martial can get some game time either against Fenerbahce or Swansea, and if he does, a return to form seems to be looming.