Manchester United are in relegation form. They’ve lost 7 of their last 12 games. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has (finally) been sacked. The players look legitimately clueless on the pitch. Now they travel to face a hungry Villarreal side in an important Champions League group game.
With uncertainty over the managerial position, the players have to play for themselves and the fans now. They realize losing could send them back to the Europa League. Cristiano Ronaldo & co won’t stand for that.
The squad is more than good enough to oust Villarreal. They just need to rediscover the spark to get going again. But, if they have a repeat of the shambolic performance in the 1-4 loss to Watford, another embarrassment could be around the corner.
Villarreal Likely XI
Rulli, Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Moreno, Gomez, Iborra, Parejo, Chukwueze, Trigueros, Dia
Unai Emery’s side is sweating with a few injury issues. Influential attackers Arnaut Danjuma & Gerard Moreno are both doubtful, while Etienne Capoue could also be out with an injury.
Manchester United Likely XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Telles, Fred, Van de Beek, Sancho, Bruno, Rashford, Ronaldo
United have a few injury troubles in this mess. Paul Pogba & Raphael Varane are out with long-term injuries, while Edinson Cavani & Luke Shaw are big doubts for this one. Mason Greenwood is out after testing positive for Covid-19.
Villarreal vs Manchester United Preview
It almost feels like Man United’s season could be over. With another manager sacking comes another period of transition. Michael Carrick has taken over for the upcoming games before an ‘interim manager’ is appointed until the end of the season.
That comes officially from the club itself. It perhaps indicates that they’ve given up on this season. The players have to ensure they don’t do the same as well. The current United squad is extremely talented & can salvage the season if they rediscover their spark.
Ronaldo is the most experienced ‘winner’ in the team. It’s time he starts leading from the front. Ronaldo has excelled in Europe this season, with 5 goals in 4 appearances. He does NOT want to play in the Europa League and is desperate to win this.
After the dismal Watford showing, CR7 needs his mojo back. That means finishing his chances well & demanding teammates to pick up their form & help him score goals. Bruno Fernandes relentlessly defended Solskjaer until the end and is probably gutted about his departure.
But it’s time he picks up form too. He’s been in sloppy form recently & needs to rediscover his creative spark. Fernandes has to be more positive & put in more effort to create big chances and get among the goals again.
Marcus Rashford is desperate to help turn things around. While his dribbling ability is unquestioned, Rashford must be more clinical & decisive in key areas to torment the Villarreal defenders. Jadon Sancho & Donny van de Beek were the shining lights of Ole’s last game in charge. Realistically, they’ll get more chances now that he’s gone. That could be from the Villarreal game onwards. Sancho now looks more confident & has to keep putting in quality crosses to feed Ronaldo – while getting the ball in key scoring areas to break his duck.
Van de Beek could be the ‘x-factor’ against Villarreal. With his clever movement, tendency to pop up in key areas & slick passing ability – he could help run the show for United. Fred, meanwhile, just needs to support him well and work hard to stop Villarreal’s breaks.
But the biggest issue for United right now is their backline. There’s just no cohesion, shape or form to them. They seem to break at the slightest of pressure. That needs addressing if they’re to sustain themselves against Villarreal.
Harry Maguire’s in threat of losing his captaincy after poor performances. Unless able to improve his form & dominate the Villarreal players, he’s in for more scrutiny. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has also regressed this season & needs to work hard to rediscover his ‘tackling machine’ persona & frustrate Villarreal.
Eric Bailly & Alex Telles should feature in this one. The two have a big chance to consolidate themselves as starters to Carrick. Bailly does well with his aggressive style, but needs to maintain concentration to ditch out United from difficult scenarios. Telles must be defensively strong but also put in better crosses to contribute going forward.
The United backline can’t expect David de Gea to save them all the time, even though he’ll have to produce big saves to do exactly that against Villarreal. The La Liga side will throw the kitchen sink at this vulnerable United side.
The character of the Red Devils squad should be tested on Tuesday. It’s a case of can they sink or float? If the squad really wants to ‘save their season’, they’ll give it their all and treat this as a final. If able to improve their performance levels, this game should be a thrilling one that can go either way.
I don’t think United will come out like a ‘new side’ this one just because Ole’s been sacked. But I think they should bounce back & ride on Ronaldo’s obsession to play in the UCL to get a result against an injury-hit Villarreal side. So I’ll predict an entertaining 2-2 draw.