Manchester United will travel to Spain for the final UEFA Europa League group stage match of the season against Real Sociedad. The Spanish side were the only team to beat United in the competition this season. United will need to win by two goals to top the group. It’s achievable.
After their eight-match unbeaten streak following that humiliating defeat to Manchester City, Erik ten Hag’s side are on to better things at this stage of the season. Winning the group and avoiding a play off round of matches is important for United, who could use the time for better things.
Earlier in the season, United had two Premier League matches postponed which could be played, as long as they can be arranged, during the time the play off round of matches would be played, or at least that could be what happens instead. United need to win again on the road.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw;
Antony, Fernandes, Ronaldo;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea showed what he is made of against West Ham United on Sunday,. He had little to do in the first half of the match but by the end, he was doing what he needed to do in order to get his 173rd clean sheet of his United career and keep United in a winning position in the match.
It is this De Gea that is so important for United and in the form he is currently in, plus the added feeling he will have based on United’s recent results, the confidence will soon be restored. Right now, there is no better goalkeeper at the club than De Gea and United need him.
Of course, as the season grows, he will need to be rested, which could happen against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup next week which could see Martin Dubravka start for the first time at United – which is something that we all need to see. Hopefully he can rival De Gea, making him better.
Defenders: Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw
United’s defence has its problems and this season that seems to be injuries. With Raphael Varane out and Victor Lindelof having an illness, presumably he could make the bench, it could well be that Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez will partner in the centre of defence once again.
Both played a part in United beating West Ham United on Sunday and could do just that again as United need that vital win on the road in the UEFA Europa League. Diogo Dalot was one of the stand out players against the Hammers and he will continue to start for United.
Luke Shaw is close to reaching his form in the left-back position and should also keep his place in this match. He is as important as Dalot in the right-back position. With this defence and the way that it plays, United could be on to something good in Spain on Thursday evening.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
United’s midfield is very positive this season. The due of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen is perhaps the best duo in the squad in these positions. Casemiro has not looked back since that Man of the Match performance against Everton and Eriksen has filled a problem position.
Casemiro has added some steel into the midfield this season but it is early days and he is still finding his feet. United are better with him than without him. This season will be important for him and United to find a way forward to take on the might of Manchester City and the rest.
Eriksen is a class addition to United’s squad in the summer and after what he has been through since that fateful day at Euro 2020, it is clear this lad has what it takes to bring things to United. Paul Pogba is but a distant memory of what could have been with Eriksen giving so much more.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Ronaldo
United’s supplement attacking players will need to work hard to get this result in the bag on Thursday evening. Hopefully Antony is back in the squad after a slight injury kept him out of Sunday’s victory over West Ham United. Having him in the team is important for United.
Bruno Fernandes will be suspended for the clash with Aston Villa on Sunday, so he will get a break before the Carabao Cup clash next week and will be fresh for the last match against Fulham just before the FIFA World Cup starts. He does need to find some good form though.
Cristiano Ronaldo playing in the left-wing position against West Ham and could well be placed there again for the Real Sociedad match, which will allow Rashford to lead the line and seek to find the goals. Of course, positions will change throughout the match to avoid complacency.
Marcus Rashford have seven goals and three assists to his name this season which is much better than what he achieved last season. In the recent matches, the lad has been on fire. He is maturing, turning 25 on Monday and reaching the peak of his career. He is important to United this season.
laying him as the striker could be a good decision for Ten Hag who needs to find a solution for Cristiano Ronaldo’s inability to bang the goals in this season and Anthony Martial suffering injury after injury from pre-season to now – three months into the season. United need results.
Getting them is important and with a strike force that is either injured consistently or misfiring, getting other options is the best way to do things. Granted, Rashford has been better in the left than he has as the striker, but things can change. United will need to deal with this permanently.
Substitutes: Dubravka; Lindelof, Malacia; Fred, Pellistri, van de Beek, McTominay, Iqbal; Martial, Elanga, Garnacho, McNeill
Ten Hag will be able to name up to 12 players on the bench against Real Sociedad, using five of them during the match. Whilst there are some injury problems, United should have enough players to function. Martin Dubravka could once again be on the bench – this match is important.
In defence, with injuries, it could well just be Victor Lindelof, if he recovers from illness and Tyrell Malacia for this match – but it will do for United. The midfield could consist of Fred, Facundo Pellistri, Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay and Zidane Iqbal – a mixture of everything.
The attack could be strengthened with Anthony Martial back in training, but this match might also come too early for him. The likes of Anthony Elanga, Alejandro Garnacho and Charlie McNeill could also be available. United have a great chance to win this and the group. Come on UNITED!
Written by John Walker