Manchester United needs only a draw to advance to the next stage of the Europa League, and in the final game, they travel to Ukraine to take on Zorya Luhansk. Zorya, a side that is fairly low-profile, especially compared to Manchester United, will take comfort from the fact they were able to limit the Red Devils to one goal at Old Trafford, but United has further incentive to score the goals required to take themselves to the next round of the Europa League. With key players such as Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia omitted from the squad, United will need a few important performances to place themselves in the next round of the Europa League and build confidence ahead of a crunch clash with Tottenham Hotspur.
Marcus Rashford, Striker, Manchester United
With Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan gearing into form alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thursday’s match should be Marcus Rashford’s chance to stake his claim for a place in the side again. Still, only 19 years of age, Rashford is already surprisingly important to United, playing more than half the club’s matches this season, but he will need to win his place back in the side. I personally don’t think he is a winger, but playing well up front could see Rashford hopefully giving Ibrahimovic some competition because the Swede could use it.
Wayne Rooney has looked solid behind the striker in recent matches, and I think both Rooney and Rashford have something to prove in this important stage of their career. With both completely different footballers and offering completely different qualities on the pitch, United will hope their threat can be maximized with a very much second-string side, and this will only happen if Rashford is in clinical form on Thursday.
Ashley Young, Right-Back, Manchester United
Jose Mourinho’s omission of Antonio Valencia from the squad would typically imply that Timothy Fosu-Mensah will get a chance in the side, but since Mourinho has joined, that has seldom been true. Odds are, Ashley Young will be playing at right-back against Zorya (if not, the following tactically applies to Fosu-Mensah) and his attacking impetus will be important. Fosu-Mensah was key in unlocking the Zorya defence at Old Trafford from right-back, and Valencia has been key to United’s attack all season, so Young will be equally important. This is especially applicable if Juan Mata plays from the right side because he was omitted from the side against Everton and shouldn’t play against Tottenham with defensive frailties in consideration.
Luke Shaw, Left-Back, Manchester United
Manchester United’s clash with Zorya Luhansk becomes all the more important when one realizes it is an opportunity for Luke Shaw to slowly gain his fitness again after his horrific injury. Shaw has not even been a shadow of the player he was before his injury, sustained in his Champions League debut against PSV Eindhoven. Shaw seems to be struggling psychologically with the concept that he could break his leg from any other incoming challenge, and he probably feels physically weaker than he was at the time too.
If Luke Shaw returned to his best form, he would be an absolute asset for a United side that seems to be lacking a world class fullback. Daley Blind is a solid fullback but is currently also playing in the centre of defence, while Matteo Darmian has looked poor since his good performances at left-back in his first few appearances, struggling with Yannick Bolasie against Everton in particular.