Starting XI Prediction: Will Fellaini keep the arm band?

Manchester United will travel to Belgium for their first leg of the Europa League quarter-finals and the team must be in good spirits ahead of it. This is a competition which grew in importance with each passing round, as it coincided with United’s inconsistent league performances, making the top four a tricky affair. Jose Mourinho will be completely focussed on the upcoming game and nothing else and will like to make the most of this away leg.

Mourinho has always treated this tournament with respect and has played pretty strong teams throughout but from this game onwards he would want to put in his best available XI for each leg of each round. Given the injuries, there are few areas of the pitch where he doesn’t have a lot of cover but that is something which the manager can have no control over and will have to make do with whatever is available to him. To make the matter even more difficult, United will be playing Chelsea only three days later in the league fixture. Which game will he rotate his squad for is something that only time will tell but let’s try and see what might the starting XI look like for the upcoming game?

Starting XI Prediction (4-3-3):

Goalkeeper – Sergio Romero

Mourinho has played Romero in this competition consistently and to make things better for the Argentinian, David De Gea’s absence due to the injury also gave him a chance of putting up a solid performance in the league game, just before this important fixture. Romero has looked ready and up for it in each game that he has played and this game should be no different. If he can continue with his habit of racking up clean sheets, United will be pretty happy coming back to Manchester.

Back Four – Matteo Darmian, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw

There have been reports suggesting Valencia might be available for the game and Mourinho might be tempted to pick him straight away. But looking at the next game and Valencia’s absence in a couple of previous games, the manager might bring him off the bench rather than start him. The center back partnership has been calm and solid, words that you normally won’t associate with Bailly or Rojo. Shaw, who was pretty good last time out, should get another shot and would hopefully start this game too.

Central Midfielders – Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini

United’s current stand-in captain might just keep his position along with the captain’s armband. Michael Carrick had a few unimpressive games but the real reason for putting Fellaini in might be to keep Carrick ready for Chelsea. Fellaini also has added motivation of performing in front of his home crowd and that might work in United’s favor. Herrera and Pogba would be asked to do what they usually do.

Front Three – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial

Martial has not played a great deal of football in the last month or so and will be fit and fresh to start this game. Jesse Lingard might make way for Mkhitaryan in order to add some creativity to the side. There is no one currently in the squad who can compete with Ibrahimovic for the starting spot. He has been way ahead of the second top scorer for United and that too, after all the chances that he missed. He will be looking to add a few more to his tally.

United need to come out of this game unscathed which will give them added advantage going in to the second leg at home. Mourinho will want to finish the game as early as possible so that he can take off the key players, resting them for the Sunday game against Chelsea. But from what we have seen so far, United have never made the job easy for themselves and this might also be one of this evenings. Let’s hope the result goes United’s way.

Written by Chinmay Padhye


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