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Preview: Solskjaer to change his formation against Villarreal? Cavani and Ronaldo to lead the attack?

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Manchester United -v- Villarreal

UEFA Champions League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Wednesday 29 September 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: Felix Zwayer Assistants: Rafael Foltyn, Marco Achmüller

Fourth Official: Sven Jablonski

VAR: Christian Dingert Assistant VAR: Bastian Dankert

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday evening as they welcome Villarreal to Old Trafford in the second group stage match of the competition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in poor form, losing three times in the last four matches and are so far winless in this competition. Villarreal are not in great form either, winning just once in their last six matches. Their only win before their recent one was against United in the final of the UEFA Europa League back in May. That said, it does not mean United will get back to winning ways through – but that needs to be the case to nip this awful form in the bud as quickly as possible.

United started the season well, beating Leeds United 5-1, drawing 1-1 with Southampton, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0, beating Newcastle United 4-1 but then falling to a 2-1 defeat to Young Boys in the first Champions League group stage match, before beating West Ham United 2-1, then losing 1-0 against them in the Carabao Cup. The 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday saw United fall from grace with three defeats in the last four matches, two of which were at Old Trafford. United play two matches at Old Trafford before the second international break of the season and will need to win both of them to stop the negativity.

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

Aston Villa 1-0 L, West Ham United 1-0 L, West Ham United 2-1 W, BSC Young Boys 2-1 L, Newcastle United 4-1 W, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 W

Goals: 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo, 3 – Mason Greenwood, 2 – Jesse Lingard, 1 – Fred

Assists: 7 – Paul Pogba, 1 – Bruno Fernandes, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane

Villarreal – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWDDLD

Real Madrid 0-0 D, Elche CF 4-1 W, RCD Mallorca 0-0 D, Atalanta BC 2-2 D, SC Braga 3-2 L, Atletico Madrid 2-2 D

Goals: 3 – Arnaut Danjuma, Manu Trigueros, 1 – Gerard Moreno, Yeremi Pino

Assists: 3 – Yeremi Pino, 1 – Paco Alcácer, Boulaye Dia, Gerard Moreno, Alfonso Pedraza

Previous meetings with Villarreal and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villarreal have met a total of five times in the history of both clubs and United have failed to win a single match. 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. In the Champions League match, there were no goals in four matches with the only goals being scored in the Europa League final with Edinson Cavani scoring in the 55th minute of the match – however, that match went to penalties with United losing 11-10 with David De Gea not making a single save and missing his spot kick.

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: Up to four players injured for United and one suspended; Villarreal have up to four players injured and one suspended too – both will be seeking a win in this match.

Marcus Rashford (Shoulder) and Amad Diallo (Thigh) are both out of action until after the second international break of the season. On Saturday both Luke Shaw (Other) and Harry Maguire (Calf) had to come off against Aston Villa and are doubts ahead of this match, which will mean there could be up to three defensive changes in this match as Aaron Wan-Bissaka is suspended after being sent off against Young Boys a fortnight ago. Solskjaer will have Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Raphael Varane, Alex Telles and Teden Mengi to strengthen the defence should both Maguire and Shaw miss this match.

Samuel Chukwueze (Hamstring), Gerard Moreno (Hamstring), Daniel Raba (Ankle) and Juan Foyth (Knock) could all be out of the trip to Old Trafford, which will be the first match at the Theatre of Dreams for the club since the 2008/09 season, which incidentally was Cristiano Ronaldo’s last season at the club before leaving for Real Madrid and a season that United reached the Champions League final – but were defeated by Barcelona in Rome. Francis Coquelin is suspended for this match. This will be a big match for both teams this season with United seeking to earn their first points in the competition and Villarreal seeking their first win.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo to lead the line, supported by Bruno Fernandes with a three-man midfield consisting of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek.

Solskjaer should look into changing the formation he uses. United have failed to score a single goal in their last 180 minutes of football, despite having some of the best attacking players in English football this season. Playing two strikers with a player behind them and a three-man midfield might cover some of their problems. There will be a lack of width in this instance, but the fullbacks could offer that going forward and there will be up to five substitutions in the Champions League, so the formation could be tweaked it need be. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that? It is worth a try as there is a chance that it could work out.

I believe David De Gea will keep his place in goal for this crucial Champions League match. There will be changes to the back four with Aaron Wan-Bissaka suspended and possibly both Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw injured, in which case Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof and Alex Telles should start in the back four. Nemanja Matic should be the defensive midfielder in this match with the formation slightly changing. A three-man midfield with Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek could compliment Matic. Bruno Fernandes should play slightly behind the two striker, who in this case should be Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Match Prediction: Getting back to winning ways is important for United and getting points on the board in the Champions League is a necessity – will it be as easy as that though?

This match will be an important one. The result will either see United on a three match losing run, a three match winless run or they will have averted a disaster and gone back to winning ways – which more importantly will be their first three points in the Champions League this season – which needs to be the result. United have failed to score a single goal in 180 minutes of football and have scored once in the five matches played against Villarreal. I like to remain optimistic about United’s matches but there is a lot of pessimism around at the moment, especially with supporting calling for the manager to be sacked again.

The important thing here is to continue to support the club and the players on the pitch. Causing a lot of needless negativity is not the best thing right now, especially when there are supporters in the stadium that fully back the manager. That seems to be the difference between the match-going supporters and the social media supporters – they are two different types of supporter. One will continue to support United win, lose of draw whereas the other will preach negativity when United have either lost of drawn and most of the time say noting when they win. Is this really the definition of a supporter?

Manchester United 2-1 Villarreal

Written by John Walker

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copyright: JW