Manchester United are back in European action on Thursday night as the face Dutch outfit Feyenoord away from home in the UEFA Europa League.
Jose Mourinho will have several strong players to choose from as the club their make first European appearance since exiting to Liverpool in the last 16 of the same competition last season, but the Portuguese coach has omitted Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw and Wayne Rooney from his squad.
Chance to experiment for Mourinho?
Having lost to Manchester City in a fierce derby clash on Saturday, it’s difficult to predict exactly how Mourinho will line-up on Thursday – will he drop those who underperformed last time out or ask them to prove a point to him?
After being substituted off at half-time against City, Jesse Lingard appeared to be one of the players with whom Mourinho wasn’t so impressed. However, the Englishman had played well in his only previous competitive appearance under his new manager during August’s Community Shield, so the United boss might be more forgiving towards the 23-year-old than others.
Lingard is quite likely to start anyway, as not only has captain Rooney been left out of the squad, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan is also unavailable through injury. That should clear the way for Lingard to start on the right, whilst also handing Juan Mata an opportunity to play in his preferred and more central, attacking role.
The manager’s greater conundrum in terms of the attack is who will play as the striker and the left winger. Mourinho has already made clear that Marcus Rashford will start the game, but it’s less clear where the youngster will play. Although he made his mark as a striker last season, Rashford has only appeared off the bench as a wide player thus far this term.
Anthony Martial has experienced a similar start to life under Mourinho – mostly playing on the left – so it might make sense for the United manager to start both him and Rashford. That way, the two players can switch positions if things aren’t going to plan for the Red Devils in the Netherlands, but that would also mean dropping Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, a rest for the Swede would probably be a good thing.
Established Reds to get nod
Mourinho’s United revolution has seen several new signings make an immediate impression at Old Trafford, but that has meant some of the club’s longer-serving players have been left on the sidelines more often than they would have liked.
However, Mourinho is sure to turn to some of those players on Thursday. Eric Bailly and Daley Blind have formed a superb centre-back partnership so far this season, but one should be rested against Feyenoord to allow Chris Smalling to return to the side.
Michael Carrick could also return for the first time since playing against Leicester City early in August. His experience could prove invaluable for a potentially tricky European away game, and if he is brought in to partner Marouane Fellaini, that could allow Paul Pogba to be rested.
With Shaw absent, Marcos Rojo seems likely to replace him at left-back, and Mourinho could opt for Timothy Fosu-Mensah over Matteo Darmian on the opposite side of defence – purely for the Dutchman’s superior attacking threat – a quality which had kept Valencia in the team so far this season. With so much potential chance in defence, though, the United manager would be wise to keep David de Gea in the team to ensure there is at least some continuity in the back five.
Predicted XI: De Gea; Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Carrick, Fellaini; Lingard, Mata, Martial; Rashford.