After an exciting start to the season, reality has come back to haunt Manchester United. Having lost their last two games (in all competitions), whispers of a crisis are starting to turn. The Red Devils know they must bounce back quickly to be in the running for top titles this season.
United hosts Villarreal in their next Champions League encounter – & there’s much to play here. The La Liga side had defeated them in the Europa League final in May, so a sense of revenge is brewing in the air. The Red Devils must be more decisive in the final third & convert their chances to properly kick start their European campaign.
Manchester United Likely XI
Henderson, Dalot, Varane, Lindelof, Telles, McTominay, Pogba, Sancho, Bruno, Ronaldo, Cavani
Harry Maguire & Luke Shaw both suffered injuries against Aston Villa and are likely to miss this one. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is suspended, while Marcus Rashford recovers from a knock.
Villarreal Likely XI
Rulli, Gaspar, Albiol, Torres, Trigueros, Capoue, Parejo, Iborra, Gomez, Pino, Alcacer
Villarreal have their own injury troubles – with Europa League hero Gerard Moreno a major doubt for this. Juan Foyth & Samuel Chukuwueze are also doubtful.
Manchester United vs Villarreal preview
Not only have Man United not won their last two games, but also been unable to score a goal. Old Trafford will start growing weary and they need to put out something special against Villarreal to win back the trust of the fans.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are struggling to deal with defensive low blocks – where teams sit back in numbers frustrating them. This could be repeated against the more defensive-minded Villarreal side.
To break apart the La Liga side’s backline, United’s forwards have to be more creative & clinical than before. Cristiano Ronaldo, for one, has to get more involved in the game & try creating chances for himself.
He’s probably going to be reverted back to his natural left-wing role against Villarreal, meaning CR7 should get more freedom to march forward with the ball & take more venomous shots on goal.
Edinson Cavani should get his first start of the season. United needs a clinical finisher like him accompanying Ronaldo up-front to terrorize defenders, as they’ll hope Cavani’s clever movement & slick finishing result in a lot of special moments.
Jadon Sancho has to complement his impressive dribbling with a more refined finer product, meaning he must deliver quality crosses for his forwards to finally get some goal contributions. Bruno Fernandes had a day to forget against Villa, but he’s the kind of strong character to take that as motivation to bounce back strongly.
The Portuguese midfielder’s creative influence has improved since CR7’s arrival, as he’ll look to torment the Villarreal defence with his clever final third passes & getting into prominent scoring areas. Paul Pogba should be back to a central role, which means he’ll get more freedom to influence the game & create better chances through the middle.
The mantra for United in this game will be simple – attack, attack, attack. They’ll have to be especially unpredictable with their attacking moves to outwit this Villarreal side. However, Solskjaer’s men must be alert not to make mistakes defensively while marching forward in numbers.
They can’t repeat the defensive disasters that resulted in the Young Boys loss. With no Maguire, Shaw & Wan-Bissaka, things could get tricky. Villarreal will, for sure, be taking their chances against the makeshift United defence & try to launch tricky counter-attacks & set-pieces to trouble them.
Centre-forward Paco Alcacer isn’t one to miss chances if they’re gifted to him. Moi Gomez & Yeremi Pino can also cause a lot of trouble down the wings with their pace & delivery. Moreover, midfielders Dani Parejo & Etienne Capoue can frustrate United’s midfielders with their tenacious nature.
A big test awaits Raphael Varane, who has lots of experience playing against the La Liga side during his time at Real Madrid. Fondly known as ‘Champions League Varane’, the Frenchman must prove his mettle in this tournament with a dominant display & maintain an unbreakable defensive line against Villarreal.
Victor Lindelof is also desperate to put in an emphatic display to improve his first-team chances. He must support Varane properly & cut out the visitors’ attacks to help his side keep a clean sheet.
Diogo Dalot & Alex Telles should both be encouraged to venture forward & help add more pressure to the Villarreal backline with their looping crosses, but they must also be sharp defensively to cut out their attacks.
Dean Henderson is likely to get a start in this one. Having lost his starting spot to David de Gea, the Englishman has to come up with a big performance – saving everything Villarreal throws at him – to impress his manager.
The Red Devils are desperate for a win & look to take out their frustrations on this stubborn Villarreal side. United must rediscover their ruthless spark & operate as one menacing attacking unit to crumble the Yellow Submarines & get back to winning ways.
United are playing this one under pressure, which is why I think they’ll get the job done. I’ll go for a gritty 2-1 win for the Red Devils.