Manchester United will return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening when they travel to Belgium to face Club Brugge in the round of 32 at the Jan Breydel Stadium. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be seeking to guide his team into the round of 16 of the competition this season as it is one of two chances they will have to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season; winning this competition or finishing inside the top four of the Premier League.
United beat Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening, the second time they have done so at the stadium this season, the third time they have beaten Frank Lampard’s team this season – scoring eight goals, conceding just one. Solskjaer will be happy to see him team get a league double over Chelsea for the first time in more than 20 years, boosting the squads confidence after what has been a poor season so far. The last time United faced Brugge, almost five years ago, they beat them twice.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Club Brugge in the UEFA Europa League at Jan Breydel Stadium on Thursday evening…
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
Sergio Romero should replace David De Gea against Club Brugge, resting him for the Premier League clash with Watford at Old Trafford on Sunday. With Lee Grant on the sidelines through injury, Nathan Bishop could find himself on the bench in the Europa League, which will be some good experience for him. Romero is a good goalkeeper and can perform just as well as De Gea – keeping clean sheets and helping United achieve their goals this season.
Defenders: Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
The defence is something that United have a lot of ability in and now that Eric Bailly is back, he could form a partnership with Harry Maguire, who has been playing well this season, scoring two goals in recent matches. Luke Shaw could play in the same position as he did against Chelsea, forming a back three, meaning United can play from the back and sit deep in the opposition half of the pitch aiming to dominate.
Midfield: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Fred, Nemanja Matic, Brandon Williams
This formation may not be needed against Club Brugge but it worked against Chelsea and has been something that Solskjaer has used away from home a lot of the time recently. It gives width across the midfield also giving Fernandes the freedom to play further forward. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams playing the wing-back positions and Fred and Nemanja Matic playing in the central midfield positions, helping link the defence with the attacking players.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
The Portuguese midfielder has been a good signing for United, despite only playing two matches so far. Against Chelsea on Monday evening, he showed his class and his ability as he is settling into a new team. Against Brugge, a team he played against during pre-season, and scored, he will have the opportunity to show his worth to the club. Fernandes is a great creator of goals and assists, which will be good for United, especially when they are full strength.
Forwards: Odion Ighalo, Anthony Martial
Odion Ighalo was unlucky against Chelsea as he almost scored a goal on his debut. He should be fit enough to start against Club Brugge on Thursday, partnering Anthony Martial up front with Bruno Fernandes in behind them. United need to find the best way to be scoring goals to carry the club forward. With Marcus Rashford on the sidelines, it will be a big loss for United but when he returns, as long as he can find his form again, United could be rich in attacking talent for the remainder of the season.
Substitutes: Nathan Bishop; Phil Jones, Diogo Dalot; Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Scott McTominay; Mason Greenwood
United will have to make do with the players they have available due to injuries. Nathan Bishop could be available on the bench as the club third choice goalkeeper with David De Gea being rested. Phil Jones and Diogo Dalot could be the defensive reinforcement on the bench with Victor Lindelof missing the last match through illness. In midfield, Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira could be options with Mason Greenwood the attacking player on the bench.