Looking at the results from this season, it seems that Manchester United always struggle on the Premier League weekend, when they play midweek games, be it Europa League or the EFL Cup. It is high time Jose Mourinho finds a way past these struggles as the festive season sets in. United will be playing six games within a space of the next 22 days, so one game every three and half days approximately. That is some serious line up of fixtures. With United already lagging so far behind, not just the league leaders but also the fourth spot, there cannot be any mishaps in these coming fixtures if they want to start the second half of the season with some hope of making the top four, let alone winning the league.
To make things worse, three out of these six games are away ties and one of them, the upcoming one, is an away game in Ukraine. With the table still open and United not completely through the door, the manager will have a major dilemma over the selection, especially when his team will be playing Tottenham Hotspur only three days later. Looking at the recent past, Mourinho has always played strong XI’s in his Europa League fixtures but things might change slightly here. With more than five hours flight travel, rest to critical and important players is in order. Let’s have a look at what might be the starting XI for the game against Zorya Luhansk
Starting XI (4-1-4-1):
Goalkeeper – Sergio Romero
Romero has been doing decently off late, however his performances have always come against slightly weaker opposition in the Europa League or EFL Cups. This might again be the case with Zorya. De Gea, being as critical as he is to the team, might be spared the hassles of travelling to Ukraine.
Back Four – Timothy Fosu Mensah, Phil Jones, Marcus Rojo, Luke Shaw
Fosu-Mensah has been missing from action for far too long now. A youngster, at the stage of his career that he is in, needs to play as many minutes as he can get. But with him being in Mourinho’s first team plans, however, not making it all the way to the starting XI or even being used as a substitute might be a little worrisome. This might be a good opportunity for the youngster to get some game time and also make a good impression on the gaffer. The other three in the back four line, however, might not change much, for the simple reason of not having much reinforcements. With Eric Bailly just making his come back from the injury and Chris Smalling still missing from the first team, United will have to stick to the center back pairing of Jones and Rojo, both of who have done pretty well since they started playing together. Shaw might get another shout for getting some game time under his belt and return to his best.
Defensive Midfielder – Morgan Schneiderlin
The Frenchman is another player who has not impressed Mourinho much and hence has hardly featured in games. This might be one of the cases where he might get to start the game and would like to put in a good shift to convince the manager to select him more often than he has.
Attacking Midfielders – Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial
This is where the majority of changes might come in. Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera are integral to Mourinho’s midfield plans and will most probably be rested for this game keeping in mind the upcoming surge of games. With Lingard being rested for some time now, it seems like the perfect time to bring him back in the mix of things. Also, with Rooney missing the last games and Mata being an unused substitute, they can be the senior anchors to carry this game. It is going to be a tricky affair and going without any experience in to the game might be suicidal, especially with the importance Mourinho gives to this tournament. A blend of experience and youth is what is needed and Mata and Rooney gives that experience to this relatively young side.
Striker – Marcus Rashford
As for Lingard, this might also be a good time to bring Rashford back to the starting XI. He did seem a little knackered in his last few appearances so last few days of rest might have helped him regain his fitness and energy which is one of his USP’s.
It does feel as if United will field a younger side, considering the travel time and also them needing just one point to qualify. However, in spite of that, it will be a close game, if the Old Trafford tie is anything to go by. But if United play with the freedom and zeal that they have been for the past few weeks and also convert those created chances, it should be nothing but a formality to go past Zorya. However, it is the performance on that day that matters, so hopefully United replicate their form and add some fortune to it tomorrow.