Manchester United face Young Boys at Old Trafford in the final group stage match of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening, knowing that they have secured the top spot in the group as they have beaten Villarreal twice in the competition this season and the Spanish side can only match the ten points United have amassed in the competition so far this season. If United beat Young Boys, which should happen, they will have 13 points this season. Young Boys only have four points in five matches and three of them came in the opening match when they beat United 2-1. Ralf Rangnick’s United side should be seeking a confidence building session.
United are undefeated since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked by the Old Trafford club. Michael Carrick led United to two wins and one draw and Rangnick has one win in his first match in charge, seeing United beat Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Sunday. The Old Trafford club have a pretty easy run throughout December and should be challenging those above them, breaking into the top four by the time we reach 2022. That will be the plan that United should have set, seeking to start a title charge under Rangnick with the club expected to learn a lot under his tutelage. Hopefully, Manchester United start to show signs they can compete this season.
Previous meetings with Young Boys and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Young Boys have met a total of three times in the UEFA Champions League. United have won two, losing one matches, scoring five goals, conceding two. Both matches were played in the group stages of the competition during the 2018/19 season. United won the first match 3-0 with Paul Pogba scoring a brace and Anthony Martial scoring the other. The match was played at the Stade de Suisse. At Old Trafford, it was a 1-0 victory for United with Marouane Fellaini scoring the only goal of the match. United will be seeking to continue their unbeaten run against the Swiss side. United were beaten 2-1 earlier this season – seeking a win here.
There is no real connection between Manchester United and Young Boys. United have never bought a player from the Swiss club and Young Boys have never bought or loaned a player directly from United. However, a player who has previously played for United has played for Young Boys. Saidy Janko, who was once part of the United academy was loaned to the Swiss side during the 2019/20 season. Janko started life at FC Zurich and was purchased by United in the summer of 2013, playing in the academy. He made one appearance for United’s first team, 28 for the U23s, scoring one goal and six assists and four appearances for the U19s.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Young Boys in the UEFA Champions League at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea has been in great form this season and despite a busy month ahead, should keep his place for this match. It should be a positive match for United and they should be able to rest a number of key players to keep them fresh for the challenge ahead this month. United may be through to the knockout stages of the Champions League this season but they should get there by winning their remaining match which is what Rangnick would want as this team needs to raise in confidence which will help them with the challenges ahead of them at this stage of the season. United will have a very bust December.
There will be an impending challenge of Dean Henderson as he will want to be given a chance under the new manager but I feel his match fitness may not be good enough to start this week – but he will be given a chance in December with him expected to either push for a first team place or to leave the club on loan for the remainder of he season in January. Should that happen, United will have both Tom Heaton and Lee Grant to fall back on should they need to. It is going to be a long and tough season so there will need to be competition in this position to spur De Gea on as Henderson’s development seems to have raised his game considerably.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles
United’s defence has performed much better in the last four matches, winning three times, drawing once but keeping two clean sheets. Against Young Boys, Rangnick has the chance to rest some players but with injuries, he might not be able to do that unless youth is drafted in – however, the U19’s will face Young Boys on Wednesday afternoon in their final Youth League match, knowing they are already though to the knockout stage, like the first team. I would expect both Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles to keep their places in the fullback positions. Both have played well with Dalot being a stand out player against Crystal Palace.
Harry Maguire played well against Palace, as did Victor Lindelof but for the players to be kept fresh fr the remainder of the month, one of both need to be rested ahead of the trip to Norwich City on Saturday. Maguire has recently returned from injury, so he should be able to continue so Lindelof could be rested. As Phil Jones has not been included in the squad for the Champions League at this stage of the season, which could change although a player would need to be removed, I would think that Eric Bailly could fill in for Lindelof in this match having a significantly better last match than he did against Manchester City in November.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred
United’s midfield still has some problems but for the foreseeable future, Rangnick will have to make do with the players that he has at his perusal. Against Young Boys, it is expected that the 4-2-2-2 formation will return, which is not really a secret but it is something that will change during the match. I would expect Scott McTominay and Fred to both start against Young Boys. McTominay shows aggression and determination but aside of that, needs to offer more going forward for United to succeed. He is a younger player and has lots of experience and should be able to kick on under Rangnick and beyond.
Fred is a player who is hot and cold at times. Sometimes he shows a poor quality of footballer but other times, he has something that can change the outcome of matches, as he did against Palace on Sunday. If Fred and McTominay can remain in the form they are showing, there is no reason why they cannot kick on and help United find their feet. The likes of Nemanja Matic or Donny van de Beek could step into this position, despite the fact the Dutchman is more of an attacking midfielder, but he has played in a deeper position before, so could find himself some involvement in this squad during the Festive period, which will be busy.
Wingers: Amad Diallo, Jadon Sancho
United have an array of attacking players with many able to play in the wide positions. Most recently, Marcus Rashford has played but does not seem to be in a period of form, so giving him a break in this match could be good for him, even if he comes off the bench at a point. Jadon Sancho has been strutting his stuff in the wide positions recently, scoring two goals in two matches under Michael Carrick, which was a great start for him. He has not come all that close to scoring in the last two matches. He might have to play on the left, which is a position he has played in at times, one that he has done well in too.
Sancho is a player that has bags of experience but will need time to fully adapt to at United. Amad Diallo missed out on a loan spell through injury in the summer and has recently fond fitness again. Starting him in this match will allow him to gain match fitness, playing in the biggest European competition against a team that United could easily beat with the right direction set by the manager and the coaches. There is a chance that he will be loaned out in January, and this could be good for that happening as United will want him to play regular first team football. This could be a great opportunity for the Ivorian.
Forward: Anthony Elanga, Cristiano Ronaldo
The attacking line is probably the most well stocked for United at this time, but there are injury problems with Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard and it probably would have been better if some of these players were fit and ready to play. That said, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored six goals in the last five Champions League matches and he will be wanting to keep that record alive, scoring in this match – even if he does only play the first half of the match with a view of keeping him fresh for the Norwich City match on Saturday evening. If some players were ready to feature for United, then changes could be made during the match.
Anthony Elanga came off the bench against Crystal Palace on Sunday. It was not the greatest of matches for him but with him scoring at the end of last season and during pre-season, there is talent there to be nurtured. At U23 level this season, he has four goals and two assists so there is something to tap into which could see that progression into the first team where he could find his feet and help United’s attack into the new era for the club. Playing alongside Ronaldo could be great for him as he will see what the Portuguese superstar does, learning something from him in his bid to become a star at United, which is something he is capable of.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek; Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood
United came make a total of five substitutions in the Champions League, which means that there can be some rotation in the match, keeping fresh legs for the trip to Norwich City on Saturday. Dean Henderson could be on the bench, if he does not take De Gea’s position in the starting XI, which seems a bit early based on his lack of first team involvement so far this season. There will be chances for him this month, if he is deemed fit to play a part for the club. In defence, Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka could both be available. Phil Jones is not eligible in the Champions League at this stage and Luke Shaw still seeks to be injured, at least at this time.
The midfield could see the experience of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Matić and Donny van de Beek all able to push for a chance to show what they can do ahead of what will be a busy month for United. In attack, the strongest positions, at least on paper for United, could see Anthony Martial, if he recovers from injury, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood all with a point to prove. It would seem that Edinson Cavani will miss out again with a Tendon injury but his participation is not all that far away relying on reports about him. Perhaps if he is not involved in this match, he could feature against Norwich City?
Written by John Walker