Manchester United’s Europa League semi-final against Sevilla in Cologne represents a huge opportunity for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United’s last outing against the Spanish side in the Champions League in 2018 resulted in previous manager Jose Mourinho losing at least a fifth of the fanbase’s support.
Tonight’s outcome does not hold such fatal consequences for Solskjaer, but the Norwegian has the chance to prove he can better the tournament specialists tactically and reach his first final as United boss.
Solskjaer has made two changes from the team that limped over the line against FC Copenhagen on Monday, and his selection decisions are likely to have huge implications on United’s chances of victory.
The decision to recall David De Gea to the starting lineup is bound to have exasperated Europa League regular Sergio Romero – and rightly so.
De Gea’s catastrophe in United’s previous semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley was not simply an aberration, so its a huge call to select him ahead of the Argentine veteran who has done little wrong throughout the whole competition.
This is a huge show of faith in De Gea, who must repay the faith his manager has continued to show him through a dismal period of form.
Meanwhile, Fred has maintained his place in the double midfield pivot alongside Paul Pogba.
It appeared likely that Nemanja Matic would return, given his experience and calming presence in a game of significant magnitude.
But Solskjaer has one eye on the challenging opposition and may believe the more mobile Brazilian is more equipped to keep tabs with Sevilla’s creative linchpin Ever Banega.
Of course, Matic is waiting on the bench and is likely to be called upon to offer a level of composure and assurance with prudent passing and clear thinking if the game becomes frantic.
But Fred has the chance to shine from the off and it’s crucial he and Pogba don’t lose the midfield battle to their La Liga counterparts.
See the team in full below, via the club’s official twitter account:
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 16, 2020