Manchester United will face FC Sheriff Tiraspol at the Zimbru Stadium on Chisinau, Moldova on Thursday in their second group stage match in the UEFA Europa League. In United’s last match, which was played on the day Queen Elizabeth II died, they lost 1-0.
Erik ten Hag’s team will be seeking their first points in the Europa League this season, needing a win to make it easier to get out of the group. United have not played since last Thursday after their clash with Crystal Palace was postponed on Sunday.
It will also be United’s last match before the first international break of the season as the clash against Leeds United at Old Trafford has also been postponed because of a shortage of policing in Manchester the day before the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia;
Antony, Fernandes, Sancho;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea seems to be the goalkeeper that Erik ten Hag is choosing to guide his team forward at this time. Perhaps if United were playing this weekend, Martin Dubravka would be called in to help this team get three points in the bag in the UEFA Europa League?
De Gea has been in good form this season but was toppled as he conceded a soft penalty against Real Sociedad a week ago. With last weekend’s Premier League match against Crystal Palace and the clash with Leeds United this weekend both postponed, he does not need to be rested.
I am sure that De Gea and United will be seeking to get back to winning ways in the Europa League this season, seemingly trying to establish a place in the knockout stages which be known before the FIFA World Cup commences later this year. United are stronger with De Gea in form right now.
Defenders: Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia
The United defence has been great this season but in their last match, were unfortunate to have seen a referee that seemed to lack basic comprehension, let alone that of VAR go against them for a penalty, which saw the ball deflect of Lisandro Martinez’s thigh and onto his elbow.
Against Sheriff, both Martinez and Raphael Varane should start together as they have been in good form in the four matches that United won in the Premier League. I believe that right now, they are the best central defensive duo at the club right now and should start most of the time.
Diogo Dalot and Tyrell Malacia should start in the fullback positions as the duo have been playing well. Malacia struggled at times against Sociedad but has been a lot better against better opposition which could show it as one poor match.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
Casemiro started against Real Sociedad last week and is still early in his career at United, therefore still adapting to everything. I believe that he should start alongside Christian Eriksen, who has, in my opinion, has been the best signing of the summer at the club.
Eriksen has bags of Premier League experience and has played at the top level in a few different countries in Europe, which is starting to show in the early stages of his career at United. I seems that Eriksen can play regularly despite some calls over the summer suggesting that he could struggle.
It was rather premature to suggest things like that especially based on the fact that ten his his 11 Premier League appearances were for 90 minutes a time when playing for Brentford. Eriksen and Casemiro could form a solid midfield partnership this season.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Sancho
United have bags of talent in the attacking midfield positions this season. Antony did not have the best performance against Real Sociedad a week ago but it was his second appearance for United after he scored on his debut at Old Trafford as United beat Arsenal.
Bruno Fernandes is a great talent to have in this team but he will need to start performing to the ability he showed when he arrived at the club back in 2020. He will likely be the captain on the pitch once again and leads his team well but needs to find more goals and assists.
Marcus Rashford is a lot better on the left flank than he is as the striker, but it was understandable why he had led the line with Cristiano Ronaldo missing pre-season and not being as ready as other players in the squad. Rashford has to get the bit between his teeth once again and find the goals.
Cristiano Ronaldo may not be happy playing in the UEFA Europa League but that is the position that he finds himself in at this time. It could well be that he will leave the club in January, with the media speculating about it, but it could go much differently.
Ronaldo needs to find the form that he showed last season. It will have been a year since his second debut at the club and he performed well against Newcastle United so find that form and showing it for United will help and see him start more regularly.
For Ronaldo to keep playing at this level, he needs to look the part and not sulk on the pitch. Granted, he was fouled against Real Sociedad and did not get much from the officials but he has to be used to that at this late stage in his career.
Substitutes: Heaton, Vitek; Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay, Iqbal; Elanga, Garnacho, McNeill
United will be able to name up to 12 players on the bench in the Europa League, using five of them. That could well be needed for United, especially going against a team they have never played against before. The beat Real Madrid in the group stages of the Champions League last season.
In goal, both Tom Heaton and Radek Vitek could be available should anything happen to De Gea. In defence, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw could all offer something if a defensive change is needed.
In the midfield, Fred, Scott McTominay and Zidane Iqbal could add something as a change will be needed at some point. In attack, Anthony Elanga, Alejandro Garnacho and Charlie McNeill could all some strength and pace on the search for goals.
Written by John Walker