Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League action when they face Young Boys at the Stage de Suisse in Bern on Tuesday evening. It will be the clubs first participation in the competition since their group stage exit last season when they failed to get a point from their last two matches, beaten by Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig in the final two group stage matches, exiting the competition and falling into the UEFA Europa League, where they went all the way to the final against Villarreal but were beaten 11-10 on penalties with David De Gea not making a single save, missing his penalty. Water under the bridge now.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be seeking to get out of the group stages of the Champions League this season, after learning a lot last season in their tough group, despite beating PSG and Leipzig in the opening two matches, losing to Istanbul Basaksehir, then beating the Turkish side, falling to defeat against PSG and Leipzig in the final two matches of the competition. This season though, United are playing positively with the signings that have been made and the experience brought to the squad should give United a lot more going forward. Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane will add a lot of that themselves.
Previous meetings with Young Boys and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Young Boys have met a total of two times in the UEFA Champions League. United have won both matches, scoring four goals. 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 (one goal from the penalty spot) 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.
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 BSC Young Boys in the UEFA Champions League at the Stade de Suisse on Tuesday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The Spanish goalkeeper has started to find that form that helped him become the goalkeeper he has been for United so far this season. He is close to rediscovering his best for the club and has played a big part in the results the club has produced this season. United are undefeated in the Premier League, winning three times and drawing once with De Gea making many saves to deny their opposition, conceding three goals in the four matches, keeping one clean sheet. This match may not be considered as a big one for United but it is important that they get a win on the table in this competition so they do not exit it as easy as they did last season.
Solskjaer could well make a change in this department with Tom Heaton ready to step in, but I feel that it would be too much of a gamble a this stage with United needing a good start in the group stage this season, as much as it did for them last season with two wins in the first two matches. De Gea will get his rest in the coming weeks in the Carabao Cup as it is possible that either Heaton or Dean Henderson will start against West Ham United in the League Cup, just days after facing the Hammers in the Premier League. De Gea has earned his place at this stage of the season and I am sure he will keep performing.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence is strong this season and there is scope for rotation. Against the Young Boys, I envisage that Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane will keep their places in the centre of defence as they provide defensive purity and astuteness. Varane’s Champions League experience will be good for United with many players not having featured in the competition as much as him in the past, at least not for United who have struggled to qualify over a few times. However, this is the second season for United under Solskjaer in the competition. United and Solskjaer will be determined to keep United in this competition each season.
Luke Shaw will keep his place in the left-back role, after a fine start to the season, which is a continuation of his form last season for United and for England during Euro 2020, which as delayed until this summer with England reaching the final, although they lost on penalties to Italy. Aaron Wan-Bissaka could find himself being rested for this match with Diogo Dalot being tested for his suitability in the right-back position, with the former not having much attacking play to his game, which needs to change moving forward as United will rely on with wide players to play the ball further up the pitch.
Midfield: Fred, Donny van de Beek
United have some problems with the midfield this season and the lack of defensive-minded midfielders is that problem. Nemanja Matic is the only experienced midfielder in this area and being over the age of 30 and losing his pace and ability to run in matches played close together, United will have to find a solution and that has not happened during the summer transfer window. Scott McTominay had to go through groin surgery in the past few weeks and Fred is not the midfielder that many think he could be, so this, of course, weakens United even more in this area. McTominay is the likely player to step in, when fit. But that might not be for this match.
Ahead of the Newcastle match, it was expected that Fred would be ineligible to future because of him not heading to Brazil for the international break, but the FIFA regulation five day ban was not enforced, so in the hours ahead of the match, he was able to be added to the squad, although he did not feature for United. I would expect him to be used in this match, if McTominay is not available, which is expected although he could feature on the bench. I don’t think Fred and Paul Pogba play well in a midfield two, so Donny van de Beek could start alongside the Brazilian, seeking to find his feet and gain more starts for his club.
Attacking Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba
There are some great players able to play in these positions for United and with some rotation expected, but not necessary at this time, I think Solskjaer will pick the players he can rely on from the start of the match, making changes during the match to give others some game time and grind out a result with some who started the match able to get some rest ahead of Sunday’s trip to London to face West Ham. I think Jadon Sancho will kepis starting place, but be switched to the right-wing. This will allow Pogba to play on the left, where he has played well this season, especially against Leeds United in a 5-1 victory.
Pogba has seven assists to his name so far this season and will be seeking to continue that form, perhaps scoring some goals for himself. It might not work for Solskjaer, this formation, but United need to be playing to their strengths, allowing the players to get something started, then when two goals up, make some changes to grind out the victory, giving some other players a chance to shine. Bruno Fernandes will play through the middle, which is great considering his goal against Newcastle and the fact he has four to his name so far this season. With his compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo playing ahead of him, this could be a good match.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is back for United. He scored a brace on his second debut for the club, extending his goalscoring tally to 120 goals with a great of 4,507 days between appearances for the club, which is impressive. From the very start of the match against the Magpies, Ronaldo seemed to be in the zone seeking to show his critics what he is still capable, which I am sure they have now seen and will regret criticising his age and the fact that many players have started to decline well before reaching the same age. Ronaldo is a different type of player and that is what makes it so much better. If he signed for Manchester City, it would be different.
The critics would have bee praising him for the player he was but because United is involved, that is where the criticism comes from. Some pundits and former players seem unable to praise United for much as they hate them so much – but it keeps them relevant as they are always talking about United. Ronaldo is here to continue his great career, back to where it first started in the big time. He has so much more to give United and so much to achieve. Recently becoming the highest scoring international player, he will be seeking to become the highest scoring player for United, which will be a big challenge for him.
Substitutes: Tom Heaton; Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay; Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Elanga
Solskjaer will be able to name up to 12 substitutes on the bench in the Champions League, much like the Europa League last season. He will also be able to make up to five changes per match in the group stages, six in the knockout stages if the match goes into extra time. There will be no away goals either, which makes everything level, which is going to be more interesting to see which teams have what it takes to win their matches, at least in the knockout stages when it becomes operational. In goal, Tom Heaton will remain on the bench as I feel it will be too early to start him in this competition with United needing a win from that start.
In defence, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be available, should Solskjaer need to make defensive changes against the Swiss side. In midfield, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay, if fit, could all give the manager some different options. It is the attacking areas that give a lot more quality though with Edinson Cavani, if fit, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga all seemingly available for a place on the bench in the elite European competition. Solskjaer should utilise all his changes, keeping his squad fit for their upcoming challenge in the Premier League and the Carabao Cup too.
Written by John Walker