Manchester United will be back in UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening as they welcome Partizan Belgrade to Old Trafford. A fortnight ago, United beat Partizan in Belgrade 1-0 with Anthony Martial scoring a penalty in the 43rd minute of the match. It was United third game in the group and their second victory, drawing with AZ Alkmaar weeks before.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has changed the form of his team after the last international break, drawing 1-1 with Liverpool at Old Trafford, then beating Partizan (1-0), Norwich City (3-1) and Chelsea (2-1) before falling to a lack lustre 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth at the weekend. Solskjaer will need to get his team back to winning ways, which could also see United reach the round of 32 stage of the tournament.
It would be fair to say that United has not had a great amount of luck this season, added to injuries, which saw Martial out for eight weeks and other important players facing time on the sidelines. Selling Romelu Lukaku may not be seen as a mistake, as supporters had stated that they wanted to see the back of him, however, not replacing him in the summer transfer window will be seen as a mistake.
Predicted Starting XI: United might have many changes from the last match, a defeat to Bournemouth but playing a largely second-string in the Europa League gives players a rest for Sunday.
Manchester United: Sergio Romero; Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Brandon Williams; Scott McTominay, Fred; Mason Greenwood, Juan Mata, Daniel James, Anthony Martial
Partizan Belgrade: Vladimir Stojković; Nemanja Miletić, Bojan Ostojić, Strahinja Pavlović, Slobodan Urošević; Saša Zdjelar, Bibras Natkho; Zoran Tošić, Seydouba Soumah, Takuma Asano; Umar Sadiq
Key Battles: Marcos Rojo, Daniel James, and Anthony Martial to be involved in the key battles against Partizan Belgrade? Umar Sadiq, Bibras Natkho, and Strahinja Pavlović involved for the away side.
Key Battle One: Marcos Rojo versus Umar Sadiq
Marcos Rojo was linked with an exit in the summer with Everton the team interested in the player, but it all fell through. He has played seven times in all competitions this season, putting in some good performances along the way. The Argentinian might have something in his locked to remain at the club, seemingly being trusted, albeit scarcely, by Solskjaer.
Rojo might have to be at his defensive best to stop United from conceding a goal or two at Old Trafford. Top scorer, Umar Sadiq has scored ten goals in all competitions this season and if he starts, he will be seeking to add to that tally. United conceded a sloppy goal against Bournemouth at the weekend, something they have been party to this season.
Key Battle Two: Daniel James versus Bibras Natkho
Daniel James was a £15 million bargain on the summer based on the impact he has had at the club in such a short spell. In terms of what he has offered, he has nearly matched what Alexis Sanchez did for the club in 18 months in the first three months of his career at the club. James has scored three goals, assisting two more, all in the Premier League.
Bibras Natkho could be a player tasked with closing down James, if he does start at Old Trafford on Thursday evening. The veteran midfielder is the captain for the Israeli national team and has played 14 times this season, scoring six goals. His experience in the game could be the key in stopping the 21-year-old from creating for his team.
Key Battle Three: Anthony Martial versus Strahinja Pavlović
Anthony Martial has scored four goals for United this season, two of them at the start of the season, the other two in the last four appearances, one of them a fortnight ago against Partizan, from the penalty spot. Missing eight matches through injury, Martial was a big miss for United throughout September and the start of October.
Coming into form now will be a good time with many matches coming up before the end of the year in the Europa League, Carabao Cup, and the Premier League. Strahinja Pavlović could be a problem for Martial as Partizan has once conceded 17 goals in all competitions this season, keeping a clean sheet 11 times.