Manchester United return to action in the UEFA Europa League on Wednesday evening as they welcome Linzer ASK to the Theatre of Dreams for the round of 16 second leg fixture. United won the first leg back in March with a 5-0 scoreline with Odion Ighalo, Daniel James, Juan Mata, Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira scoring the goals, seemingly ending the Austrian sides participation in the competition. It could be a good month for United as they hunt a trophy.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be seeking to get the job done with the latter stages of the tournament being played in Germany with United’s first match to be played RheinEnergieSTADION in Cologne in which they will either face FC Copenhagen or İstanbul Başakşehir. If United win that match, they will stay in Cologne for the semi-final with the final also to be played in the German stadium. United have qualified for the UEFA Champions League next season, finishing third in the Premier League.
How United have faired against Linzer ASK and other Austrian opposition in European competition.
United and Linzer met for the first time back in March, which was the last match to be played before the suspension of world football because of the coronavirus pandemic. United on that match 5-0, which was played behind closed doors in the Linzer Stadion. The goalscorer in that match were Odion Ighalo 28′, Daniel James 58′, Juan Mata 82′, Mason Greenwood 90+2′, and Andreas Pereira 90+3′. In effect, this tie has already been decided ahead of the second leg to be played on Wednesday evening.
United have played Austrian teams in Europe. United beat SK Rapid Wien 3-0 on aggregate in 1969 in the quarter-final European Champions Clubs’ Cup, beating the same club 2-0 twice in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League in 1996. In 1999, United beat SK Sturm Graz 3-0 and 2-1 in the group stage one of the Champions League. Finally, beating Sturm Graz again in the Champions League, this time in the group stage two, winning 2-0 and 3-0.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Linzer ASK in the UEFA Europa League at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening…
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
The Argentinian goalkeeper should be given the nod for this match and possible the remainder of the competition, giving David De Gea some time to think about the 2019/20 season, his errors and the ways in which he can prosper and earn back his form shown in prior seasons. Sergio Romero should have played against Chelsea in the FA Cup, a competition he had played in throughout the season, showing good form as United’s number two goalkeeper. If he does well, he should keep his place in the team for the remainder of the competition, maybe rotated if needed, providing United reach the final later this month. Who knows what could happen this summer with Romero and you cannot blame him for asking questions as De Gea was making costly mistakes and he was not given. look in despite being able to make a difference at the club.
Defenders: Ethan Laird, Eric Bailly, Teden Mengi, Brandon Williams
United’s defence have had a hard packed few months playing at least two matches a week since mid-June. The fatigue has been visible with the back four and one of them may need to play in this match, at least for some of it so United can get through it and into the next round of the competition. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire should all be rested which could allow Ethan Laird and Teden Mengi to earn some first team minutes which will benefit them. Eric Bailly could start after suffering that head injury against Chelsea in the semi-final of the FA Cup with Brandon Williams also starting at left-back with little cover in that position with Luke Shaw out of action.
Midfield: James Garner, Scott McTominay
In the midfield, the likes of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic need to be rested as long as possible. Because of this James Garner should start, which would apply more interest to him this summer as a loan spell away from the club for the entire 2020/21 season is being touted, it might allow some clubs who have not seen what he can do, see exactly what he is capable of. Scott McTominay should be his partner in midfield as he has played very few minutes recently and could be ready to continue his season, being one of the experienced players starting in this match. United have in effect won the tie. An early goal could put it out of reach for the Austrian side.
Attacking Midfield: Tahith Chong, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard
In this area of the formation, I have picked the players who have either not played at all since the restart or have played few minutes. With Jesse Lingard scoring against Leicester City in the last seconds of the match, he should start against Linzer ASK to see what he could do – which might also see clubs come in for him this summer as if Jadon Sancho arrives at the Old Trafford club, Lingard is going to be one of the casualties. Just Mata should also start, playing in the central role, which is a position that he has played well in the season giving Bruno Fernandes a well-earned rest until the next round of this tournament. Tahith Chong should start, giving him a chance to prove himself or perhaps earn a loan spell away from the club next season, which might allow him to shine.
Striker: Odion Ighalo
The Nigerian striker has played fewer than 200 minutes since the Premier League season resumed with United facing Tottenham Hotspur at their new stadium. The player started against Norwich City in the Emirates FA Cup, scoring a goal in the match. His last start before that came against LASK back in March where he played 85 minutes in that match. He will be due a start and could well find a goal or two in the game, which would end the tie meaning the younger players could be given run out to see what they are capable of in what seems like a dead rubber match.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Tim Fosu-Mensah, Victor Lindelof; Paul Pogba, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Daniel James; Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood
With five substitutions available for this match, Solskjaer could have many experiences players ready to come on should they be needed ahamnst Linzer ASK. With a 5-0 scoreline from the previous match, it would seem unlikely that United could be knocked out of the competition but you never know. In this case, David De Gea, Tim Fosu-Mensah and Victor Lindelof could be the replacement goalkeeper and defenders ready to be used if needed. In midfield, Paul Pogba, Fred. Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James could be brought on should they be needed with Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood as the attacking players on the bench.
Written by John Walker