Manchester United received a great confidence boost at the weekend and on Thursday night, they will host their UEFA Europa League quarter-final opponents, Anderlecht, for the second leg of the tie. The first leg perfectly depicted United’s season in so many ways; dominant performance, enough chance creation but poor conversion rate. A late goal, which seemed to have come out of nowhere only made the matters a little more difficult for the Red Devils. With 1-1 as the final score, United have everything to play for in the second leg
Weirdly enough, United have been very clinical and efficient in their home legs in the European competition, unlike the Premier League. So Jose Mourinho would be silently confident of his team’s chances of making to the next round, which will take them only two games away from the final and three games away from the title and potential Champions League spot. But with four games still to go, it is far from over and in spite of being the favorites to win the competition, United will have to play out of their skins and put in an equally determined performance as their last. With the amount of shuffling that Mourinho did in that last game, he has a lot of his first choice players available for the Anderlecht game. If the last game was anything to go by, predicting the starting XI is going to be tough but we will still try our best.
Starting XI Prediction (4-3-3):
Goalkeeper – Sergio Romero
David De Gea came back to the starting line up against Chelsea but Mourinho has been consistently playing Romero in the Europa League games. He will most probably carry the same trend especially with Romero doing so well in all of his appearances so far.
Back Four – Matteo Darmian, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw
Antonio Valencia might have been the most consistent player in this team but it might be a good idea to give him a breather for a game in order to have him ready for the upcoming flood of games. Also, with Shaw available for selection, Mourinho might want the other full back to be little defensively oriented. Darmian have always been good defensively but have not been as effective going forward. With very little options and the game of this magnitude, not considering the opposition but what is at stakes, the manager will want his best center back partnership on the field right from the start.
Midfield – Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba
Mourinho might go in to the game with the Carrick-Fellaini-Pogba central midfield partnership, giving Ander Herrera some time off considering the shift he put in the last game. United once had a lot of midfielders to choose from but with the departure of few over the course of the season it is now down to just the four of them. Mourinho has been doing well shuffling them due to the crowded fixtures and it might continue through to the end of the season with United playing so many games and each of it being a must win. Carrick has not played a lot in the last few games and he will be eager to contribute some more before the curtain drops on this season.
Forward Three – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial
Martial has been in the prediction for quite a few times but has not been played much. Only Mourinho knows whats happening on that front so it is best to trust his judgment on it. But it does seem that Martial will this time come in for Marcus Rashford. Rashford has been excellent the past few games but he needs to maintain the same level till the end of the season and considering how young he is, it might be beneficial to rest him for this game. Mkhitaryan might come in for Jesse Lingard, who also played with immense heart and desire against Chelsea while Ibrahimovic will be back in his striker role looking to add a few more to his already impressive tally.
This is probably the most crucial game for United this season as it will take them to the semi-finals of the tournament. A lot of fans feel that Europa League is the best chance for United to get to the Champions League and this game will see them take another step closer if they manage to win it. But it is easier said than done. Anderlecht have played very well so far to reach this stage and they won’t be going down without a fight. Old Trafford and Mourinho’s men need to be ready for them and if the Reds perform to their standards, they should see themselves through. But nothing has been that easy for United this season so let’s wait and hope that there are no surprises in the bag.