Preview: Manchester United need to beat Villarreal to continue rebuild post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Villarreal -v- Manchester United

UEFA Champions League

Estadio de la Cerámica, Villarreal, Spain

Tuesday 23 November 2021, KO 17:45 GMT

Referee: Felix Brych Assistants: Mark Borsch, Stefan Lupp

Fourth Official: Daniel Schlager

VAR: Marco Fritz Assistant VAR: Harm Osmers

Manchester United will take on Villarreal at the Estadio de la Cerámica in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has managed his final match for the club as he was sacked following the 4-1 defeat to Watford which was a new low for the club. Michael Carrick will step into the shoes of Solskjaer for this match as the club looks to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season, which suggests another change could happen during the summer. United will need to get three points in the bag in this match to secure their knockout stage participation in the Champions League this season.

Whilst it is sad to see Solskjaer leave the job he loved, it was time for a change as it seemed clear that there were problems somewhere in the club at playing level, despite the fact there remains a problem with the ownership and the board of the club, who just don’t seem to want the club to achieve what the players and the supporters want the club to achieve. United need to continue building on the same plan that Solskjaer helped to define, returning the club to a position whereby they will be able to challenge for the big honours in domestic and European football. Thanks for everything, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: LLDWLW

Watford 4-1 L, Manchester City 2-0 L, Atalanta 2-2 D, Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 W, Liverpool 5-0 L, Atalanta 3-2 W

Goals: 9 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 3 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Jesse Lingard, 1 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek

Assists: 8 – Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, 2 – Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luke Shaw, 1 – Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard, Raphael Varane

Villarreal – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWWLDL

Celta Vigo 1-1 D, Getafe 1-0 W, Young Boys 2-0 W, Valencia 2-0 L, Cadiz 3-3 D, Athletic Bilbao 2-1 L

Goals: 7 – Arnaut Danjuma, 4 – Manu Trigueros, 3 – Alberto Moreno, 2 – Gerard Moreno, Yeremi Pino, 1 – Paco Alcácer, Etienne Capoue, Samuel Chukwueze, Francis Coquelin, Boulaye Dia, Pau Torres

Assists: 3 – Daniel Parejo, Yeremi Pino, 2 – Paco Alcácer, Arnaut Danjuma, Boulaye Dia, Gerard Moreno, Alfonso Pedraza, 1 – Serge Aurier, Etienne Capoue, Francis Coquelin, Moi Gómez

Previous meetings with Villarreal and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villarreal have met a total of six times in the history of both clubs with United winning once – the last match between the two teams. There have been four draws and one defeat with the first four matches played in the Champions League group stages with the last match played in the Europa League final. United won 2-1 in the meeting earlier this season, the first goals scored against them in the Champions League. Before that, in the Europa League final last season, it was a 1-1 draw after extra time with Villarreal winning 11-10 on penalties. If United can get a good result in this match, they will have a good change of getting out the group.

There is not much history between United and Villarreal as far as players are concerned. Eric Bailly is the only current United player who came to the club from the Spanish club in the summer of 2016 for €30 million. Since the transfer, Bailly has made a total of 107 appearances, scoring one goal and one assist. United were apparently interested in signing Pau Torres during the summer. Guiseppe Rossi was sold to Villarreal in the 2007/08 season and Diego Forlan arrived at the Spanish club in the 2004/05 season. Both players did well in Spain with Rossi scoring 82 goals in 181 appearances and Forlan scoring 58 goals in 121 appearances.

Team News: Varane, Pogba and Greenwood ruled out of Villarreal match; Cavani and Shaw both doubts whilst Maguire will be available – Moreno is the only injured player for Villarreal at this time.

Raphael Varane (Thigh), Paul Pogba (Thigh) and Mason Greenwood (COVID) will all be out of the clash with Villarreal on Tuesday evening. Edinson Cavani (Tendon) has a 25% chance of being available for the journey to Spain with Luke Shaw (Head) having a 50% chance of featuring for United. Harry Maguire will be available for the match despite his sending off in the defeat to Watford, but will miss the Chelsea match at the weekend. United will be seeking to overcome the defeat to Watford, ending a turbulent period and ensuring they take their chances to get out of this Champions League group and into the knockout stages of the competition.

Gerard Moreno (Torn Muscle) is the only absentee for Villarreal ahead of he clash with United. They will be upset with the manner of the 2-1 defeat earlier in the season and be seeking to avenge that in their home stadium. The current form is not the best, but neither is United’s so it could be an even match. Villarreal are currently second in the group with the same number of points as United, but the head to head record is in United’s favour at this time. That will all be different with another defeat at this stage of the season, which is not what United will want, even if some of the players have given up performing – that says more about them.

Predicted Starting XI: Donny van de Beek must start against Villarreal; Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho to lead the attack in the Champions Legue.

Following Solskjaer’s departure of the club, Carrick will step into his shoes and pick the team, formation and tactics for this match. It is expected that more of the same will be provided and the players who were supposedly the favourites of Solskjaer’s will continue to feature. However, now is the time for change and the stagnant way in which United have been playing for more than two months. United are back in an uncertain period and many of these players will be playing for their own futures at the club as nothing is guaranteed until there is a permanent manager at the helm – even then they cannot take anything for granted.

David De Gea will most likely keep his place in goal, unless there is going to be an upset coming with Dean Henderson stepping in, but I don’t think that is the case. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Alex Telles could form the back four with Luke Shaw likely to be out after having to come off injured in his last two matches. Scott McTominay could play in the defensive midfield position in a 4-3-3 with Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek in the advanced areas – the Dutchman needs to start as he was the best player against Watford. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo should lead the attack.

Match Prediction: United and Villarreal have a five match history in European competition with four draws, one defeat (on penalties) and one victory. That needs to become two on Tuesday evening.

United’s history with Villarreal has not been all that impressive. Four matches in the Champions League before this season were goalless. The Europa League final was a 1-1 draw with United losing 11-10 on penalties. Earlier this season, Ronaldo scored the winner with Alex Telles also scoring his first goal for the club to come from behind. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in football and United are not guaranteed success Hard work could bring that but that is not a certain. United need to get back to basics, find a way to use their attacking talent and kick their opposition into touch to get an important three points in the bag.

This will be a hard match for United. Villarreal don’t have an impressive record either, so it will be tough for them too. Not everything that happened at the club was down to Solskjaer but there will be some so-called supporters who will hold everything that happened against him. The Glazer’s, Ed Woodward, Matt Judge and Richard Arnold all have a combined responsibility for what is happening at United and they will continue to do what keeps them all in a job with the money coming in. The players on the pitch will need to dig deep, rise above the challenge and ensure they can bring in the results as they are responsible for this too.

Villarreal 1-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.