The European fixtures are back at Old Trafford, not the ones they want but the ones that they have now. After last weekend’s thumping win, the 20 times champions of England will take on Zorya Luhansk, a team which a majority of you would not have heard of. In spite of a performance which was probably the best under Jose Mourinho, there will be quite a few changes to the starting XI. Considering the game takes place on Thursday, the manager would want to rotate his players a bit. But with a loss against Feyenoord, United will now have to get their act together if they wish to progress in the tournament.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1)
Mourinho started his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation but when one looks at the playing style, the squad operates with one defensive midfielder ahead of the backline and the other central midfielder, which in most cases was Paul Pogba, playing much higher up the pitch. The same might be on display in the upcoming fixture.
Goalkeeper – Sergio Romero
IT might seem to be Mourinho’s only chance to give Romero some minutes. With David De Gea in the team, there is no way any other keeper starts in front of him unless it is for the rotation purpose. This game gives the manager a perfect opportunity to get in these players who cannot be in the starting XI otherwise.
Back Four – Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw
There might be a few changes in the back four, more precisely in the full back region. Antonio Valencia might make way for Fosu-Mensah while Luke Shaw might make his return to the starting XI after his injury. Daley Blind was outstanding as a left back against Leicester City but this game might see him getting a breather in order to get ready for the game against Stoke City. Fosu-Mensah did not do a great deal last time he got the opportunity but it makes sense to have him play a few more games to prove himself. Smalling and Bailly did not start off to great results but seem to be getting the hang of playing around one another.
Central Midfielders – Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick
After a fantastic, man of the match display from Carrick, he had to sit the last game out but should be seen starting the upcoming game, most probably. Alongside him, Fellaini might get a nod, considering his good performances and lack of game time of late. It doesn’t look to be the most mobile of the midfield’s but with Carrick marshaling the area, the deliveries and passes might bring about some effective attacks.
Wingers – Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial
Lingard did well against Leicester City and considering his age and the lack of game time recently, he might get another start. On the other flank, we might see another injured player who might make his comeback. Martial, had a tough game against Watford and after a few knocks had to be substituted. Although the injury wasn’t serious, he did miss the last couple of games but there is a good chance that he gets in to the starting lineup on Thursday. He has not been anywhere close to what he was last season but United would need him to get there sooner rather than later.
Number 10 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Mkhitaryan last appeared in the Manchester derby where he did not perform up to the mark and was very rightly subbed. Since then he has had an injury sideline him for a few weeks. This game will be a perfect chance for him to get back to match fitness. Mourinho, too, would want his creative outlet to be in the best of forms and game time is one way to get there.
Striker – Wayne Rooney
After being dropped for the Leicester game, Rooney is “expected” to start the upcoming game. The England captain has a lot to prove and this might not be a perfect game to do so, considering the opposition. Even a hat-trick might have a diluted effect considering the limited competitiveness that would be expected from the opposition. However, considering the things that have been written and spoken about, there is no other option but to shine through, for him.
This is an important game in spite of a largely unknown opposition. With one loss on their name already, United would not want to come away with anything but a win in this game. A draw or even worse, a loss, will not only make things tricky for the red devils with respect to progressing in the tournament but will also negate all the optimism and enthusiasm that the performance of last game brought out. But if the players play up to their potential, this should be a walk in the park for United. But matches are not played on paper but on the pitch so one can only hope that the Red Devils play to their high standards and come out with those three points.