Manchester United will face AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on Thursday evening in their final UEFA Europa League group stage match. United currently top the group, albeit by one point with the Dutch side in second place. The match will decide the group winners, which could mean an easier opposition in the round of 32 stage of the competition, which begins in February. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping his side keeps their winning run going.
After beating both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the past week, the squad will be full of confidence to keep this run going, especially during a busy period of which no fewer than seven matches before the end of New Year’s Day. One question will be, how will Solskjaer have his team lined up to face AZ Alkmaar on Thursday evening? Here is one likely starting XI…
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
The Argentinian goalkeeper has not played for about a month, last starting in the 3-0 victory over Partizan Belgrade in this competition. He has recently returned to the bench after a brief layoff. This will be crucial for David De Gea, who will be able to have a break following last week which saw hims face Aston Villa (2-2 draw), Tottenham, Hotspur (2-1 victory) and Manchester City (2-1 victory). Romero is a player who can pull off a save just as good as De Gea, an ideal stand in goalkeeper.
Defenders: Ashley Young, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams
I would presume that some rotation will happen in the defence, although some experience is needed to ensure the victory. As the U23s played on Monday evening, I doubt that Solskjaer will make wholesale changes. Ashley Young could start at right-back, giving Aaron Wan-Bissaka a rest ahead of Sunday’s visit of Everton. Brandon Williams could step in at left-back with Axel Tuanzebe replacing Victor Lindelof in the heart of defence, possible partnered with Harry Maguire.
Midfield: Fred, Scott McTominay
I don’t think there will be many changes in the midfield with few players to fill the void. I would like to see one of Dylan Levitt or James Garner involved but the latter played on Monday. I reckon both Fred and Scott McTominay will keep their places in the midfield, which would be good for both players as they have given their all in the last week. There could be some rest for them in the coming weeks when more players in this position are available. Paul Pogba’s return seems to keep getting put back, whatever is happening there?
Attacking Midfielders: Daniel James, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford
I would expect Daniel James, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford to keep their places in the attacking midfield area against AZ Alkmaar. Rashford is unplayable at this moment in time, scoring 13 goals in his last 14 appearances for both club and country. James has been a stand out player this season and got himself another assist against City at the weekend. Lingard has a way to go before he is considered a player in form again, but another appearance could give him the confidence to perform for his club again – he’s got to be running out of chances to shine again.
Striker: Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood would be a great start against AZ Alkmaar. He’s a clinical striker with all the attributes to shine in his locker. He has scored four first team goals this season, which is a great start considering how quick his rise from U23 football came. This lad is going to be something special in the years to come, his his development continues. Anthony Martial recently came back from injury and started against City, scoring the second goal. Keeping him fresh is much-needed at this stage of the season. We don’t want him injured again as he’s really only just come back, again.
Substitutes: Lee Grant; Phil Jones, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Dylan Levitt; Anthony Martial
Solskjaer will need to have some able players on the bench to keep the team fresh and either find a goal, or two or keep United ahead, depending on what happens during the match. I would expect Lee Grant to be the substitute goalkeeper with Phil Jones and Luke Shaw as the defenders on the bench. Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira could be the attacking minded midfielders on the bench with Dylan Levitt maybe on the bench. Anthony Martial could well be the forward on the bench if he needs to be utilised.