Manchester United welcome Villarreal to Old Trafford in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
This is the first encounter between the two sides since Villarreal won the Europa League final on penalties at United’s expense in Gdansk and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping to atone for that defeat with a much-needed win in the Champions League.
United will have to bounce back after a tumultuous week, though, which saw them crash out of the Carabao Cup to West Ham before they also lost their unbeaten record in the Premier League, losing 1-0 at home against Aston Villa – an awful pair of results.
The Reds started their Champions League campaign with a defeat away to BSC Young Boys – the game’s momentum shifted when Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sent off – and they need to get a positive result against Villarreal if they want to progress.
Which starting XI will Solskjaer rely on for the game?
Francis Coquelin is suspended and Gerard Moreno out injured. Villarreal are unbeaten in regulation time this season and have drawn six of their seven games – four of them 0-0. United have to be on the front foot if they are to break their run of five draws from five against the Europa League winners.
If Luke Shaw is fit, then it makes the back four selection easier. If he isn’t, then United may have to accommodate the unconvincing Alex Telles.
United need a creator in midfield, which should be Donny van de Beek, and natural width in Jadon Sancho. Paul Pogba offers flexibility to switch from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 if Villarreal have a sense of adventure.
Defensive issues mean United are pretty hamstrung when it comes to selection. Varane has to start but I’m not sure I’d risk Shaw, so Dalot, Lindelof and Telles can all come into the team.
Van de Beek has started as many Champions League games as Premier League games for United and he was doing well two weeks ago until being replaced at half-time. He can partner McTominay to try and give United a bit more control in central midfield and some adventure when moving the ball forward.
Given United’s precarious position in the group they can’t take too many risks with selection, so Pogba, Fernandes and Ronaldo all have to start, but one change that could be made is to rest Greenwood and give Sancho a go down the right.
United need to make changes from their dire weekend display but ideally they’d have been in midfield rather than defence. Dalot and Telles are the only full-back changes while Lindelof is better suited as a partner to the mobile Varane.
Fred and McTominay can’t continue playing together and including Matic would make sense against such a counter-attacking side. Van de Beek would be an exciting inclusion alongside him.
United have options up front but need to start their strongest trio with Pogba and Greenwood in the wide roles while Ronaldo is the only option through the middle.
Solskjaer confirmed Shaw has an outside chance of starting against Villarreal after he sustained a knock at the weekend, however, if the left-back is deemed unfit, Telles can come in and Dalot has already proved he’s ready to contribute on the right.
Although ruled out through injury, Maguire is perhaps enduring a Euro 2020 hangover and Lindelof has a golden opportunity here.
Fred has often unfairly been made United’s scapegoat, but the Brazilian’s recent performances simply haven’t been good enough and surely now is the time for Solskjaer to place his trust in Van de Beek alongside McTominay – the Dutchman deserves to start.
Greenwood, Fernandes, Pogba and Ronaldo in attack should remain unchanged, but all four need to deliver after Saturday’s defeat.