Tactical Preview: Feyenoord v Manchester United – UEFA Europa League 2016/17


Looking for an immediate return to form after the Manchester derby, United travel to the Netherlands in their Europa League clash with Feyenoord at the “De Kuip” stadium. A hostile atmosphere will await Jose Mourinho and his men, the Dutch side is known for being loud and proud, helping their team to 14 Eredivisie titles, two UEFA Cups, and one European cup win. It will by no means an easy fixture for United but will go into the game as favourites even with Mourinho expected to change a large proportion of the squad. United’s official website writes that starts for Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera are likely and hint that there might well be other changes with squad players being tested out.

For all there might be changes in personnel, it’s unlikely Mourinho will change the formation with the favoured 4-2-3-1 to be employed again. With Rashford up front, either two of Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay, Jesse Lingard or Ashley Young getting a start as the wingers. If I was to go with my gut, Martial and Memphis will get the nod, Rooney at number 10 and Schneiderlin & Herrera as the two defensive midfielders. Memphis has only made the one appearance this season and has been working hard off the pitch getting match fit rather than bulking up. Jesse Lingard struggled in the game against City, coming off at half-time and not completing a single successful dribble in the game. Henrikh Mkhitaryan will more than likely be rested as he continues to find fitness after picking up a couple of small niggles over the international period.


Feyenoord will line up in a 4-3-3 formation as they do in the league, with former Liverpool winger Dirk Kuyt playing as either a winger or more recently in the number 10 position. He is among the three real threats that Feyenoord possess, the others being wingers Steven Berghuis and the very quick Jens Toornstra. They boss a massively impressive five wins in five games this season in Eredivisie and will be looking to dominate the game on their home turf. Another familiar face, when the reds come calling, will be former Liverpool keeper, Brad Jones who is enjoying a lengthy run of games but as he proved in his vulnerability in his limited appearances for the English side.

Manchester UnitedUnited will be keen to perform well in the Europa League, even with the stigma surrounding the tournament. It’s a great opportunity to see young players perform and still an impressive title to have at the end of the season if successful. Two players who will be dying to make an impact on the game and impress Mourinho are Marcus Rashford and Memphis Depay. Rashford, of course, burst onto the scene during as a late replacement for Anthony Martial against Midtjylland in the Europa League where he scored two goals on his United debut.  His performances since have been incredible and many are calling out for more game time for the young Englishman but with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in fine form, this competition is where Rashford will look to make his mark. Memphis Depay is the same, struggled under Louis van Gaal except for in the Europa League scoring five goals in 11 games last season in which he showed his true potential.

Key Battles

Marcus Rashford v Terrence Kongolo  

The pace and directness of Marcus Rashford will be a tough test for the Feyenoord defence but they do have some pace and power of their own at the back with Terrence Kongolo. The powerful centre-back will be tested throughout but has a terrific reputation. Whoever wins this one will have a huge hand in how their team does on the night.

Steven Berghuis v Matteo Darmian

As mentioned before the winger for Feyenoord, Steven Berghuis, is a quick and tricky player, he loves to dribble past players and will cause all sorts of problems if he’s allowed to settle. Matteo Darmian is rumoured to be one of the ones coming into the team allowing Valencia rest and a chance to prove himself in front of a big crowd in front of Mourinho. The Italian showed last season he has the ability to be a top right-back but truly does lack the consistency at this point of his career. It’ll be a hard night for the United defender unless he can stick with his man and not allow any room for maneuver.

Ander Herrera v Dirk Kuyt

Ander Herrera isn’t normally a defensive midfielder but played there excellently when he came on against City and will look for more of the same, shutting down attacks and providing that finesse in the middle of the park. He’ll need plenty of awareness and tactical thought as he is coming up against a veteran of the game in Kuyt who has netted three times in the league this season. He has plenty of European experience behind him with Liverpool and Fenerbahce and still has the pace to get up and down the field as well as an eye for goal.

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