Manchester United will be back in action on Thursday evening as they travel to Spain to face Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League quarter final second leg. After leading the first leg 2-0 with a brace scored by Marcel Sabitzer at Old Trafford last week, they collapsed late in the second half with Tyrell Malacia scoring an own goal before a deflection from the head of Harry Maguire in added time. It was a terrible situation for United to be in which they will have to get through in Seville.
United also lost Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez to injury – the Argentinian is out for the remainder of the season after having surgery. Varane is going to be out for much of the remainder of the month. Bruno Fernandes was booked in the match, meaning he is suspended for this leg – something else that United need to get through added to all the injuries in the squad at this time. United did beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 on Sunday afternoon with Antony and Diogo Dalot scoring.
Sevilla beat Valencia 2-0 in LaLiga on Sunday, still sitting in 13th place in the Spanish league with nine matches remaining this season. Beating United and going on to win the Europa League is their best hop of European football next season. That said, it is United that must step up from the unfortunate aspects of the first leg at Old Trafford and find a way to beat Sevilla, a club they have rot far not beaten in European opposition. Two draws and two defeats in four matches now.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw;
Antony, Eriksen, Sancho;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea should keep his place in goal against Sevilla if he is fit to do so following the injury scare against Nottingham Forest on Sunday. He kept his third clean sheet in four matches as United overcame their 2-2 draw to Sevilla last Thursday at the Theatre of Dreams. United need a confident goalkeeper in this match as he could be the difference between United winning and losing. De Gea is a top shot stopper and United can prevail because of that.
Jack Butland will be keen to start for United this season but with the next two matches being very important for United’s success this season, I can’t see him starting for United until the club are in a position in the Premier League that cannot see them drop out of the top four this season. United sit third in the league at present but with them featuring in the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday, they will have more matches in hand to strengthen their position, which is very important.
Tom Heaton will also want a chance but his injury will stop that from happening for the foreseeable future. De Gea is the goalkeeper that Erik ten Hag should continue with, fitness being there as he is so important for United to achieve. He will also want to achieve and prove himself ahead of a new season where his successor is likely to either be at the club on firmly in the plans for the manger to recruit at some point in the not too distant future.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw
United have a major problem in defence at this stage of the season. Losing both Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez to injury, one for the remainder of the season has not been good for United. It leaves them with Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire as the clubs two experienced central defenders with no other player to lighten the load until Varane is fit again. Luke Shaw could step into the fray there, but at this moment he has been out of action through injury, which is not great.
In the fullback positions against Sevilla, I would expect to see Aaron Wan-Bissaka start in the right-back position as he has been largely positive there in his last few matches. His partnership with Antony on the right flank is great to see. In the left-back role, Luke Shaw could be back to continue his season form against Sevilla but if he is not ready to start and Tyrell Malacia is still out with a knee injury, Diogo Dart could start in this position again, doing well against Forest.
In the centre of the defence, it would seem that Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire will be partnered together once again, which is not the best option for United but it is the best available. Lindelof did well against Forest, not that they attacked much but it will have been a confidence booster for him. Maguire had a tough first 20 minutes but seemed to recover and helped to keep a clean sheet. Varane will be good to have back when he’s fit, but got now, this is what United have.
Midfield: Casemiro, Fred
United’s midfield will be boosted because Casemiro is back, despite the fact that if he’s booked in this match and United progress to the semi finals of the UEFA Europa League, he will miss the first leg of the tie. That said, it is something that United would have to make do with if it happened, like they have when he has been suspended this season already. I would have expected Christian Eriksen to be partnered with him but with Bruno Fernandes suspended, that will change.
Marcel Sabitzer could have been another player to play alongside Casemiro, but had he been fit, he could have replaced Fernandes but his withdrawal from the Forest match after the warm up has created a doubt ahead of this important match in which he scored a brace in the first leg. It is possible that he could be involved in this leg and Ten Hag will confirm that in his pre-match press conference which will be held on Wednesday in Seville. United do have options though.
With Eriksen starting in the Fernandes position, that would leave Fred to partner Casemiro, unless Sabitzer is fit, in which case Eriksen will partner Casemiro and Sabitzer will play in the hole behind the striker. Scott McTominay could also be back to boost United’s midfield ahead of this match with youngsters Kobbie Mainoo or Zidane Iqbal coming into the squad for this match, which would be good for either or both of them in the long run with them seeking to break into the first team.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Eriksen, Sancho
The attacking midfield positions are normally where all the goals come from. However, with Bruno Fernandes suspended and him being involved in 21 goals this season, United will need to find another player to play in his role. Christian Eriksen looks to be that player at this time unless Marcel Sabitzer is fit to start against Sevilla. If so, Eriksen could partner Casemiro in the midfield. Eriksen has been involved in a lot though – two goals and nine assists across the season.
Antony should be starting as he has starting to be a threat in from of goal. He has just eight goals and two assists so far this season – ten goal contributions – and that seems to be inspiring him to find some form towards the end of the season with United needing more inspiration from their players to reach their goals. United are still in three competitions – with two of them in the offing this week with United needing to beat Sevilla and Brighton and Hove Albion to win another trophy.
Marcus Rashford’s involvement relies upon him being fit prior to United travelling to Seville on Wednesday. Should he make the flight, there is a chance he will be involved either as a started or from the bench. Either way it would give United a better chance to beat the Spanish side. Should he not make it, Jadon Sancho will start ahead of him with Alejandro Garnacho also out of action for the foreseeable future. United should have more options in the coming weeks in these positions.
Anthony Martial has returned from injury and starting in the last two matches and looking like the player United had in form at the start of the season. The Frenchman is the best striker at the club at this time but he will need to make the difference on the pitch having been off it for the majority of the season. United need him to be fit and firing and he has a way to go before he gets there. That said, Martial needs to be the start against Sevilla as he could be the difference.
Wout Weghorst could come in later in the match and provide the work rate that he offers and who knows, maybe he could find a goal or an assist to help United on their way to the semi finals of the UEFA Europa League this season? Stranger things have happened. Ten Hag will have an idea of what these players could achieve this season and whether he will have the best players in his squad available for this match. Hopefully he has more options for this match or the weekend.
I would like to see Martial put in a good performance in this match and rise up against the club he spent the remainder of last season on loan at, ending the season on the sidelines through injury. United have a quality squad but some quality players are on the sidelines through injury, which is a major problem and shows the lack of strength in depth that United have with so many problems when the main players are out of action with United struggling at times.
Substitutes: Butland; Malacia, Dalot, Jurado; Sabitzer, McTominay, Iqbal, Mainoo; Rashford, Weghorst, Pellistri, Elanga
United could have up to 12 players on the bench in the UEFA Europa League this sesason, using five of those throughout the match – a sixth if this tie goes to extra time – possible penalties. Hopefully Ten Hag has his tactics formulated to get the best out of his likely starting XI to try and put United in the semi final of the competition where they could face either Juventus or Sporting Clube de Lisbon. I would expect Jack Butland to be the goalkeeper on the bench for this one.
In defence, United are the weakest at this stage of the season. With Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez both injured, United have no central defenders at this time. The likes of Diogo Dalot, Tyrell Malacia and Marc Jurado could all be available on the bench, which is not the greatest. Hopefully Shaw is fit to start the match either at left-back or in a central defensive role, which will likely come at the weekend with Harry Maguire suspended in the Emirates FA Cup.
In midfield, United could have Marcel Sabitzer and Scott McTominay, if fit, Kobbie Mainoo and Zidane Iqbal. There is some depth there but only if Sabitzer and McTominay are fit. In the attacking positions, Marcus Rashford, if fit, could be back in action, whether from the start of from the bench. Wout Weghorst, Facundo Pellistri and Anthony Elanga could also be available. If Rashford starts, Jadon Sancho would be back on the bench seeking a chance to start again.
Written by John Walker