It’s been a difficult few days for everyone involved with Manchester United with the club reeling from the departure of beloved former player turned manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But the show must go on and the Reds – under the temporary tutelage of caretaker boss Michael Carrick – head to eastern Spain knowing a win will make sure of a place in the last 16.
Carrick will hold the fort until Solskjaer’s replacement can be found as the season continues apace but he took the training under Ole and is part of the problem. He must be moved on when a new manager comes in.
It will be interesting to see whether Carrick will stick to his former boss’s blueprint or do something totally different. Here is how we think United will line up on Tuesday night.
GK – David de Gea
One of the few players who can hold his head up high as despite the recent run of form De Gea cannot be held accountable for recent events. Been one of United’s most consistent performers this season and has now outlasted four managers. Probably United’s best player so far, De Gea retains his place in goal.
RB – Aaron Wan – Bissaka
This lad has been simply rotten recently but we know he’s a good player and he’s unlikely to be dropped. So many players became a victim of the coaching it’s hard to tell exactly where he’s at. There’s no one else to play in his position and maybe that’s part of the issue. But form is temporary, class is permanent and this could be the game for him to restore shattered confidence.
CB – Harry Maguire & Eric Bailly
Maguire will miss the weekend’s trip to Chelsea but his suspension applies to domestic games only so he will be available here. Carrick is never going to drop him or strip him of the armband, and when he’s fit he plays. Perhaps the epitome of United’s recent woes. Raphael Varane is still injured with Eric Bailly in line to start ahead of his likely inclusion at Stamford Bridge. The Ivorian rescued United last time out in Italy and has impressed on the few occasions he’s had a chance. Victor Lindelof will be rested.
LB – Diogo Dalot
Luke Shaw must be a major doubt having come off with another concussion at Watford following a similar incident in the derby. Two hefty knocks in two weeks suggests he shouldn’t be risked. Shaw is another player in horrible nick so this is probably a good game for him to miss. The best left-back in the land over the past two seasons has looked like a competition winner of late. Dalot seems further up the pecking order than Alex Telles, so we expect the young Portuguese to get the nod here.
CDM – Fred
One of Solskjaer’s most trusted lieutenants, he is liked by the coaching staff for his work rate and tenacity. The Brazilian missed out at Watford which suggested he was being kept back in readiness for this one. Fred will come in to a new-look midfield with Scott McTominay out of form and Nemanja Matic unable to play two games a week.
CDM – Donny van de Beek
There was a sense of poetic irony in van de Beek – a man inexplicably ostracised by Solskjaer – scoring the final goal of the Norwegian’s tenure. The diminutive Dutchman may not have been able to change the result at Watford but impressed with his passing, movement and link-up play. van de Beek showed why he should start and made a mockery of Ole’s refusal to play him. He deserves to play and the Champions League suits his European style.
RW – Jadon Sancho
Sancho was one of United’s better players at Vicarage Road, although admittedly that’s not saying much. With Mason Greenwood sidelined having tested positive for Covid, Sancho will start in his favoured position on the right flank. He’s shown what he’s capable of in flashes, but will look to kick on and make that spot in the side his own. Another player strangely not trusted by Solskjaer despite the fact he wanted him for two seasons.
CAM – Bruno Fernandes
In the worst form of his United career, Bruno hasn’t found the net in Red since the 4-1 win over Newcastle in September but he’s still claimed seven assists in the 13 games since. Once the talismanic figurehead of this side, he deserves better than to play in such a poor side. We can only hope the old adage is true – form is temporary, class is permanent. Jesse Lingard is pushing for first XI involvement but it’s unlikely Carrick will drop Fernandes for such an important game.
LW – Marcus Rashford
Hauled off at half-time at Watford following a below-par performance after three goals in four games on his return from injury. The first United player to break his silence after Solskjaer’s shock sacking, he’s already outlasted three Reds bosses and will again be tasked with supporting CR7 in attack. Looking for his European goal of the season, Rashford is expected to start ahead of Lingard with Paul Pogba – who has played wide on the left – out through injury.
ST – Cristiano Ronaldo
Where would we be without this man? Ronaldo has scored in all four Champions League games including two late winners and a point-saving leveller last time out to send us top of our section. The competition’s all-time top scorer, CR7 isn’t known as “Mr Champions League” for no reason and, for all the team’s collective travails, he’s been a revelation on an individual level. With Edinson Cavani is a major doubt with injury, Carrick wouldn’t dare rest Ronaldo for this crunch game and will look to his talisman to pop up with the goods again.
I’ve got no confidence in Carrick’s coaching ability and can only see one result here. It won’t be any different even now Solskjaer has gone as Carrick did all the training and tactics anyway. We’ll again need to rely on individual brilliance to pull us out the fire, but a difficult evening again lies in store. A do-or-die showdown with Young Boys beckons.
Villarreal 3-1 Manchester United