Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United start their European journey this week, unfortunately, in a competition, which one might say, doesn’t suit their stature. United will travel to Rotterdam, Netherlands on Wednesday hoping to start of their campaign on a winning note. After the Manchester City defeat, this game could not come any sooner, for the team but more importantly for Mourinho. It only took a couple of selection mistakes for a below-par performance in the first half, which was rectified at the first available chance but could not avoid the defeat. The manager would now want to get back on the winning track but at the same time would also want to rotate his squad keeping in mind the Sunday league fixture.
In spite of it being just a Europa League tie, it might be a good platform for the squad players who haven’t got a lot of minutes on the pitch to showcase their talent and performance. As far as the squad is concerned the club captain, amongst a few others, have been left back in England and have not traveled with the squad. Phil Jones missed the training session on Wednesday, indicating, that his absence might be related more to fitness rather than rotation. Another one who missed the training was Henrikh Mkhitaryan who has been reported to be injured and out of contention for at least the next 10 days. It will be interesting to see if Mourinho goes for balance in rotation or does he completely revamp the squad.
Starting XI (4-3-3)
Mourinho has since he arrived at United, always played a 4-2-3-1 but when things did not go as per the plan switched to a 4-3-3 in the second half against City. This game might give the manager a chance to try out the 4-3-3, which seems to be the system in which the world’s most expensive player might thrive better, as debated from fans to pundits. Keeping this in mind, it would be interesting to see if the manager goes all out in attack or takes a more conservative approach of playing two in the defensive midfield.
Goalkeeper – Sergio Romero
Romero has mostly been just a traveler with this United squad and has not been involved in action at all. This might be his time to put on a good display to let the manager know that David De Gea has a decent backup if needed.
Back Four – Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind
Darmian, who has been recently linked with a move away from the team, might get a look in if the reports are false. He has a lot to prove, especially as Antonio Valencia has been in good form in the first few games. Talking about lot to prove, another one in the line is Chris Smalling. With excellent defensive display by the Bailly-Blind duo, Smalling did not get an opportunity to get in the lineup. With this game, he might get his chance and if he can show the same form as last season, Mourinho will have a much desirable dilemma on his hands. Blind, who was excellent in most of his previous games apart from a few mistakes in the derby, can take the left back position.
Central Midfielders – Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin, Paul Pogba
Herrera was excellent in the derby in the second half after his introduction. Mourinho, too, was forthcoming in acknowledging the Spaniard’s effect on the game. Herrera deserves the start looking at his derby exploits and will like to keep up his performances. Schneiderlin, who is another one who has missed most of the games, might also get back his defensive midfielder position. With him in the squad, someone like Pogba and Herrera will have the license to go on the attack much more than as compared to in a two man midfield. Pogba, as in Juventus, has always preferred the approach through the left side in the midfield and the presence of the other Frenchman in the midfield can give the back four the needed defensive cushion.
Front Three – Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Memphis Depay
The Spaniard was left out of the derby day team and will be looking forward to putting in some minutes in this coming game. Even if not the quickest, creativity is Mata’s forte and with Rashford’s pace up front, it might turn in to a fruitful association. The other flank is up for grabs, unlike it was when the season began. Anthony Martial has not been in the same form as he was in the last season and with a string of not-so-great performances, Memphis might get a look in. United’s number seven, who was touted to be “the next Ronaldo” has not yet lived up to the hype and expectations. But in the latter part of the last season, one saw what he can do and one would also hope he does something of that sorts in tomorrow’s game if he plays. Rashford, on the other hand, has grabbed all the chances that he has got with both the hands. Mourinho was completely open about him playing this game and one should not be surprised if he scores in this game too.
With the loss against City, this is a game that has its own criticality and importance. A win here will take the United team back on the winning track but anything other than a win will be treated as a disappointment. But with the resources that this team has, especially when compared to their opposition, it should not be a big task to get home those three points. Let’s hope there are no surprises with this one.