Manchester United are not short of quality attacking options in their squad currently, but that number could drop by one or two in January.
With Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes all vying for starting places, Anthony Martial has found first-team opportunities hard to come by recently.
This has led to his agent publicly announcing that the France international will look to leave the club in January.
This is a player who two seasons ago was the club’s top goalscorer and leading number nine for the whole season as they finished third in the Premier League.
It finally looked to be clicking for him after a thunderous start was somewhat curtailed by Jose Mourinho’s use of him as a substitute, while he was adamant about being a striker and now a left winger.
He was given that chance under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who then brought in Cavani for added competition. Martial didn’t react to that particularly well, scoring just seven goals in a poor season and then United brought in Ronaldo.
Since then, Martial has been a shadow of himself. He has suffered with injury problems in his defence, but that raw ability that struck fear into opposition defences during his first season with the club has completely gone.
He has lost a couple of yards of his pace, he is reluctant to take players on when dribbling, he basically refuses to make runs in-behind the opposition defence and his finishing is nowhere near as reliable as it once was.
He has rightly fallen down the pecking order at the club with the emergence of Greenwood too, which means he just can’t secure a prolonged run in the first-team to get back into tip-top shape anymore.
Martial is now 26-years-old and is entering the prime years of his career. He needs to play regularly and is obviously talented enough to be first-choice at a successful club.
But right here, right now, Manchester United isn’t that club. They have better options than him for their systems, many of whom are younger than him.
They have great academy talent coming through too who they will feel can replace him and with time still to run on his contract, they can probably get a pretty good sum of money for a want-away player.
It’s a deal that suits all parties at this point and ultimately is the right decision. If he goes on to be successful elsewhere, United shouldn’t be criticised for his sale, because he’s clearly talented.
For all the qualities he has, he isn’t the best option at Old Trafford now and losing him isn’t really going to put a dent in the squad.
Thanks for the memories Toto, but it’s time to go.
It was announced earlier this week that Barcelona youngster Pedri was the winner of the 19th edition of the coveted ‘Golden Boy’ award.
The award is handed to the best Under-21 player in Europe’s top leagues based on a vote by sports journalists, based on the performances during the calendar year.
Looking through the list of previous winners, there have been some hits and misses as to how their careers ended up. But who is the best? Who is the worst? I’ve ranked them all, starting with the worst.
The Brazilian was one of the most exciting prospects to come out of Brazil when he joined AC Milan but after an impressive couple of years, injuries took their toll and Pato never made the impact he was meant to. It might strike you to realise he is only 32 these days, but plays in the MLS with Orlando.
If you look at Anderson’s CV, there’s an argument that he shouldn’t be this low down. But when you consider that injuries absolutely battered him throughout his career and most of those accolades came due to being part of an amazing squad, he has to be near the bottom.
The Italian broke onto the scene with Inter Milan, but a career that has been clouded in controversy didn’t go without it’s moments. The ‘Why Always Me?’, the fireworks, the fights with the manager are balanced out with the assist for *that* Aguero goal and his Euro 2012 performances get him off the bottom.
The Manchester United man is only 25-years-old as of this writing, but he’s really failed to kick on since winning this award in 2015. He’s lost that X-factor he had when he first moved to Old Trafford and while he’s got time to turn it around still, at his current trajectory he’d be considered a disappointment.
Rafael Van der Vaart
The inaugral winner of the award was a star for Ajax before earning himself a move to Real Madrid via Hamburg. But under the brightest of lights he struggled to really make an impact and the rest of his career was spent as being the best player in relatively mediocre sides.
The star of a young Benfica side who helped Portugal to their first ever international trophy at Euro 2016, Sanches looked destined for greatness. A poor move to Bayern Munich and injuries have stalled his development and while he finally looks to be getting back to a high level, it’s too early to have him above some of these guys in the list.
There may not be a more iconic career moment from anyone on this list than Gotze scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final during extra-time in 2014. Since then though it’s been downhill, with injuries and a loss of form seeing him become a shadow of his former self. He’s only 29 now, but he plays for PSV in the Eredivisie.
2021’s winner gets into this list at this height simply because it’s far too early to put him any higher or lower. His career has been strictly high points thus far, becoming a key member of the Barcelona team and putting in amazing performances during Euro 2020 to help Spain to the semi-finals. If he continues at this level, he will be one of the best in the world without a doubt.
Matthijs De Ligt
The only defender to win the award, De Ligt is still considered one of the best young defenders in the world. After helping Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals as their teenage captain, he earned a move to Juventus where he’s failed to rip up any trees but has maintained a steady level of performances. There’s definitely more to come from the Dutchman.
Felix blew up with his performances for Benfica in the Europa League and earned a nine-figure move to Atletico Madrid. Since moving though, injuries and a style of play that doesn’t really suit him have seen him stagnate. We’ve seen some top level performances in that time though, so we know the talent is still there.
The Spanish playmaker was a superstar in the making and was a key member of the Spain and Real Madrid side for years, with his brilliant guile and technical ability on show regularly. He’s won it all but the last few years have seen him barely touch the pitch and that will affect his legacy somewhat. A top player though, without doubt.
2020’s winner is currently regarded as one of the best strikers in the world despite being just the tender age of 21. His phenomenal goalscoring record has got everyone’s attention and the ease with which he’s taken to top level football is a sight to behold. He has got a long and successful career ahead of him, without a doubt.
The Manchester City and England winger won the award during his time at Anfield as a Liverpool player and hasn’t looked back since. He is the City player with the most goals under Pep Guardiola, has won everything at club level except the Champions League and even helped England to their best tournament finish since 1966 at Euro 2020. A superstar.
Despite his time in England since returning to Manchester United splitting opinions on him, Pogba’s talent is and always has been undeniable. He broke into a title winning Juventus team, is a leader at international level and scored in a World Cup final. His United stint may be up for debate, but his career is not.
Fabregas has had success everywhere he has been until he moved to Monaco, but the levels he reached during his prime have him down as one of the best midfielders of his generation. He won everything there is to win at club level and international level, while being a key player in every success and will be remembered greatly despite the winding down of his career at a relatively young age.
The man with the most iconic moment in Premier League history, Aguero’s legacy as a world class footballer is undeniable. He is the player with the most hat-tricks in Premier League history, the most goals in Man City history, the most goals by a foreign player in Premier League history and he’s top three goalscorers in Argentinian national team history. Unfortunately forced to retire early due to heart problems, but he will go down as a great.
Mbappe is only 22-years-old at the time of writing this, but his legacy is already solidified. He won the league with Monaco as a teenager against a dominant PSG side, then switched to Paris to become a cornerstone of their recent success. He’s won golden boots, trophies and even became the youngest player since Pele to score in a World Cup final. The scary thing is, he’s only getting better too.
It’s crazy to think that some people believe Wayne Rooney never fulfilled his potential despite ending his career as the all-time top goalscorer for Manchester United and England. He won it all at club level, playing several positions and is the owner of several iconic moments. A world class footballer and one of the best his country has ever produced, he was a true golden boy.
There was no other option for the number one ranking of this award, because the greatest player of all-time won it back in 2005. The only ‘Golden Boy’ to go on to win the Ballon d’Or, he has gone on to do everything except win a World Cup and his legacy will transcend generations. Without a doubt the greatest I’ve ever seen, it’s a no brainer that he sits at number one on this list.
It’s been a long time coming, but Jadon Sancho is finally a Manchester United player.
The 21-year-old England international has been chased by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the club for the best part of two years but a £73million deal was finally agreed last month and is now complete after Euro 2020 came to an end.
Now that he is part of the squad, Solskjaer must decide on how best to use him going forward in the long-term but also short-term as he comes to terms with the fall-out of Euro 2020 and Copa America as well as other fitness and form issues in his squad for the start of the season.
How should United start the season in attack? How should it look once everyone is fit and firing? Here’s how I see it…
LEFT WING STARTER – Marcus Rashford Depth: Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial, Dan James
If anyone has made a position their own in the Manchester United attack it is the number 10, Mr. Rashford.
Pace, direct running, a killer final pass and a goal threat, Rashford has mastered the out-to-in run and is often United’s biggest threat in attacking situations. Injuries mean that he could miss the start of the season, but that wouldn’t be the biggest issue in the world.
Anthony Martial is fit again and capable of playing there, while Sancho is arguably just as good on the left as he is on the right while Solskjaer is still a fan of Dan James who can fill in if needs be too.
RIGHT WING STARTER – Jadon Sancho Depth: Mason Greenwood, Amad, Juan Mata
I think it’s fair to say that Sancho has been signed to walk straight into the team on the right wing and anything else would be seen as a surprise.
It’s been a problem position for several years for Manchester United and over the last two seasons Solskjaer has been using Mason Greenwood in that position for his ambi-pedal abilities and goalscoring threat, but he’s a striker first and foremost.
The signing of Amad added depth but he was eased into the first-team picture last season, but some added minutes could be thrown his way this season in certain games to rotate the squad and even just add competition and help develop him more.
Juan Mata’s new deal means another option too, but the young bucks should certainly be ahead of him in the pecking order.
NUMBER 10 STARTER – Bruno Fernandes Depth: Donny Van de Beek, Juan Mata, Hannibal Mejbri
Bruno Fernandes is the second name on the team sheet for Solskjaer after Harry Maguire in defence and that will not change this season barring something crazy.
The real question about this position is who should play when he doesn’t and Solskjaer has got options, whether he opts to use them or not. Donny Van de Beek is capable of playing as a ten, although it’s a different type of way to play the role while Mata arguably made his name in the position when he was younger.
There is also the possibility of Hannibal earning some first-team minutes after being promoted to the senior team at the end of last season and if he can impress during pre-season then he could earn himself some minutes during the season too.
STRIKER STARTER – Mason Greenwood Depth: Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
The new one-year contract for Edinson Cavani would suggest that he will be the first-choice striker going into the new season, but if there’s ever the time to try something new it is now with Greenwood as the man.
The youngster has proven that he has the ability to score goals at the highest level despite his age and his preferred position is through the middle. He holds the ball up well, can drift wide and has the pace to run in behind plus finishes with both feet.
Cavani showed last season that he can affect games coming off the bench if necessary and despite Martial’s popularity with fans and the squad, his form last season was bad enough that he now must earn his place back through performances.
Mason Greenwood has staked his claim to become the long-term number nine for Manchester United after scoring a late winner against Brighton at Old Trafford.
The Seagulls took the lead in the first half when former academy star Danny Welbeck lost Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the penalty area and was able to head past Dean Henderson at the second attempt. United struggled to create anything of note for a while, although Greenwood did hit the post early on and it wasn’t until the hour mark where they’d get back into the game.
Bruno Fernandes latched on to a loose ball and fed Marcus Rashford, who slotted past the goalkeeper as United pulled it back before Fernandes crossed for Paul Pogba to volley back across goal and Greenwood latched on to a header to grab all three points.
It was exactly the type of goal that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been trying to coach Anthony Martial and Rashford to score over the last two years and exactly the type of goal that Edinson Cavani was brought in to score when he signed last summer.
It was a great sign of progress in his development, with the England international grabbing only his sixth goal in a campaign where he has mostly been shunted out to the right wing.
But with news that Anthony Martial is likely to miss the rest of the season after picking up a knee injury on international duty, it means the 19-year-old could get himself a run as the central striker between now and the end of the season.
The obvious option is Cavani to take the leading role, but the Uruguayan is an interesting case right now. He himself has only scored seven goals this season and has performed better coming off the bench than when he’s started games. His physical attributes aren’t as sharp as they were during his prime, obviously, but his movement is also not as great as it once was.
Add to that his all-round game is iffy at best, with his link up play absolutely appalling and his passing is often very wayward, United struggle to sustain attacks when he needs to play with his back to goal.
Greenwood has a better overall game than Cavani does right now and since bulking up physically, he is much more comfortable now than he was last season when it comes to duels against defenders. He is more mobile, able to go both ways and ultimately is just a much better option right now.
He came through the academy as a number nine who scored goals relentlessly, even as he went through the age groups and it’s clear that he is more comfortable in central areas than out wide where his space is marginalised.
He’s never going to be able to learn how to play as a striker in the first-team without playing there and there seems to be no better time than now. With Cavani unlikely to stay beyond this season now after claims that he wants to return to South America, there is no point shoehorning him into the side.
It’s the perfect opportunity to give Greenwood a run in the side in his best position, with United now 11 points clear of fifth place and with a favourable draw in the Europa League quarter-finals against Granada.
Put the future of the club in the spotlight now and if Greenwood can perform then it could change the club’s transfer plans for the better.
When Anthony Martial arrived from Monaco on deadline day in 2015 for up to £58million, the unanimous question on everyone’s lips was, “how good can Martial become?” Six years later and those at Old Trafford are still asking that same question.
The 25-year-old understandably divides opinion among United fans. The ones who like to call themselves “Martial FC” think he can still go on to become world class and there are some that think he will always be inconsistent and should be replaced. Some even believe that Martial should have been sold instead of Romelu Lukaku in 2019.
While Lukaku is a decent player, he is technically more limited and to get the best out of him you have to build the team around the Belgian. The way Solskjaer wants to set up didn’t suit Lukaku at all and Martial is the more suited player. Versatile, quick and when his minds in the right place, difficult to stop.
But there lies the crux of the matter, as we just as often see a disinterested Martial with his signature scowl as we do the one leaving defenders in the dust and bending one into the back of the net.
He seems to lack that killer instinct and this makes him one of the most frustrating players to watch at the club, as you can see he has all tools necessary to be a cornerstone of this side if he just got his head down and worked harder for it.
No one can forget his debut in the 3-1 win over Liverpool, where Martial came on late in the second half and collected the ball from the left hand side, turned Liverpool’s defenders inside out be and clinically slotted home the last goal in the game. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that United fans have expected the Frenchman to have found some consistency to his performances by now.
At the end of this year Martial will be 26 and at some point a player has to start realising his potential. A great example of this is Cristiano Ronaldo, who, like Martial, was very inconsistent at first but you could see glimpses of a player in there.
The Portuguese winger had the hunger and desire to improve and was often the first to arrive and the last to leave at Carrington. Ronaldo is known to be one of the hardest working players in the game, I have my doubts about whether Martial shares the same type of mentality.
We are now at a time where it is do or die for the Frenchman. With the emergence of Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford having a solid campaign and the addition of Edinson Cavani, competition for places along the forward line is fierce. Along with United still being linked to likes of Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, Martial might soon be phased out of the side and be forced to seek new pastures if he continues to underwhelm.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said, “hard work will always overcome natural talent when natural talent does not work hard enough,” and never has that applied more to Martial than now.
If he ultimately doesn’t live up to what people expect of him, then he will join the list of players that squandered their natural ability because they didn’t want it hard enough.
The end is nigh for Martial FC as Anthony Martial turned in a disasterclass for the ages in Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United on Wednesday night.
The Frenchman started in his preferred central striker role on the night but was absolutely horrendous throughout, as Kean Bryan and Oliver Burke scored either side of a Harry Maguire header to get the Blades only their second win of the season.
It means Manchester United remain in second place in the table, a point behind local rivals Manchester City but having played a game extra.
The performance from everyone was awful, with Harry Maguire probably the only one to come away with some positives on the night, but Martial in particular has struck a nerve with fans.
After pushing on to his best individual season last year, many expected him to kick on this season and really push on to become the number nine he has always claimed to be.
Instead, the 25-year-old has shown a lack of intensity, a lack of movement, a lack of hunger and in truth, a lack of quality.
He has scored just five goals in all competitions so far this season and despite being given chance after chance, he’s not shown anything to suggest that he’s going to kick on past what he did last season.
United are seriously lacking that clinical edge in front of goal right now, to help in these tight games. Edinson Cavani has done relatively well in his performances so far, but its clear as day that he is past his prime too.
With a heavy reliance on goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, when they’re not firing United become blunt in attack. The Reds are desperate for someone they can rely on to be a genuine threat for 90 minutes in every game they play – someone in the Harry Kane or Erling Haaland bracket.
While the defeat is a result that could happen at any time – no team can win every game – United will see it as an opportunity missed to keep the pressure on Man City as they head into a tough round of fixtures.
They face Arsenal, Southampton and Everton in their next three league games and they’ll need to ensure they don’t do what they’ve become known to do in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era and that’s fall into a run of bad results, instead of it being an anomaly.
Manchester United were let down massively by their manager and number nine at Old Trafford on Wednesday night as they were beaten 3-1 by PSG in the Champions League.
An early Neymar goal saw the French champions take an early lead, before a deflected Marcus Rashford shot found the net to equalise for the Red Devils. United then had several chances to take the lead with Anthony Martial missing an open goal after fantastic work between Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford, before Cavani hit the crossbar with a delicate chip and Martial missed the rebound.
PSG then took over and took the lead through Marquinhos before Neymar rounded off the win in added time after great work in his own half before tapping into an empty net.
If that wasn’t enough, Manchester United were left without Fred after a second yellow card in the second half which could easily have been avoided.
Earlier in the first half, Fred lashed out at Leandro Paredes with a headbutt but the referee somehow deemed it only a yellow card despite looking at the off-field VAR monitor. He then rushed into a tackle with Paredes and ended up standing on the Argentine’s ankle, but the referee booked Paredes instead.
It was clear to everyone and their nan that Fred needed to be substituted at half-time. He was diving into tackles, had already got away with not being sent off twice and PSG knew they needed the win so would be attacking more.
Instead of making the obvious decision and bringing on any of Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba or Donny Van de Been in his place, Solskjaer made the unbelievable choice to keep him on the pitch.
After dominating much of the second half before falling behind to Marquinhos’ goal, United were still well in the game. They only needed a point from the final two games of the group to guarantee qualification, so a red card really flattened them.
In fairness to Fred, the tackle that actually got him a second yellow card was barely even a foul but that’s the tight rope you walk when you put yourself in that situation. He should’ve been sent off for the headbutt and he should’ve been sent off for the second tackle, so there is zero sympathy for the scenario.
We saw Marcelo Bielsa take off Pascal Strujik after just 21 minutes recently, after he received a booking early on against Aston Villa. The manager acknowledged the threat his team would be under by leaving him on and took the decision out of the referee’s hands by replacing him before it was too late. Common sense.
With Cavani potentially going to be suspended now for an offensive Instagram post and Mason Greenwood yet to really kickstart his season, the club need Martial to buck up his ideas if they want to get back to winning ways again.
Manchester United now must travel to Germany next week to take on RB Leipzig knowing they cannot lose or they will crash into the Europa League. They face Manchester City the following weekend, so a result against PSG would’ve seen them able to rest players ahead of that big Premier League clash.
Manchester United were given a reminder of what a true number nine looks like leading the line, as Edinson Cavani came off the bench to score twice in a 3-2 comeback win against Southampton.
The Reds started the game well but quickly found themselves 2-0 down thanks to Jan Bednarek’s header and a stunning James Ward-Prowse free-kick. This prompted Ole Gunnar Solskjær to send for the cavalry, as Cavani was introduced at half-time in place of Mason Greenwood.
The Uruguayan international was influential with his movement off the ball throughout the second half, getting an assist for Bruno Fernandes on the hour mark to pull it back to 2-1. It was then his turn to get in on the action as Fernandes’ strike was deflected into his path and he stooped to head home an equaliser.
Then in the 92nd minute, Fernandes fired a free-kick out to Rashford, who whipped in a picture perfect cross from Cavani to run across goal and glance into the near post for the winner.
That piece of movement between the posts is exactly what United have been missing in recent years and especially under Solskjaer, who has spoken constantly about wanting to get Anthony Martial and Rashford scoring ‘scrappy goals’.
The best comparison I have for the way Cavani plays is if you play ‘Pro Clubs’ on FIFA.
When he has his back to goal, his first thought is to lay it off to someone and make the move in behind the defence. If there is no space in behind, he gets on the shoulder of the defenders and moves between the width of the posts.
He’s never been the most clinical, which is crazy when you think of how many goals he has scored throughout his career, but there’s a reason for that. He’s always in the right place for those fortunate, scrappy goals to fall his way.
He’s not a bad finisher, obviously, but he’s not in the upper echelon of strikers who need one chance to get on the scoresheet. He often needs more than that.
With the way Manchester United tend to create chances, Cavani’s instincts and movement is arguably what’s needed the most. Martial is the better front man right now in terms of what he can bring to the side overall, but Cavani guarantees goals.
He’s arguably made himself the first choice striker for now with that performance and the onus is on Martial to win his place back.
United looked a different outfit with him on the pitch and Ole would be crazy to take him out of the side for Martial with both of their current form.
The three time European champions return to the Champions League for the first time since 2018/19.
After an awful start to their Premier League campaign saw them beaten by both Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford with wins over Brighton and Newcastle, Ole Gunnar Solskjær declared that their season starts now after Saturday’s victory.
They come into the Champions League this year after finishing third in the Premier League last season, thanks to a fantastic run post-lockdown that saw them climb from fifth and overtake both Chelsea and Leicester City.
Thrown into a group with Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Istanbul, Manchester United were dealt the group of death in this years competition and they will have a tough time with games coming thick and fast.
The Red Devils open their campaign with an away trip to Paris, the scene of their most famous comeback under Ole Gunnar Solskjær when they overturned a 2-0 home loss to win 3-1 with a 93rd minute Marcus Rashford penalty sending them through to the quarter-finals in March 2019. Since then though, it’s been very hot and cold for Solskjær at Old Trafford while PSG have strengthened and made it to the Champions League final last year where they were beaten 1-0 by Bayern Munich.
RB Leipzig are an exciting outfit and they themselves made it to the Champions League semi-finals last season, despite having lost top goalscorer Timo Werner to Chelsea prior to the resumption of the tournament. This summer they replaced the German forward with three new attackers after signing Alexander Sorloth, Hee-Chan Hwang and Justin Kluivert on loan from Roma. Coach Julian Nagelsmann has been widely praised for his attacking style of football and his side proved they can cope with English physicality when they dispatched of Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur both home and away in last season’s tournament.
United will need to win all their home games to stand the best possible chance of qualification, while also ensuring that they take at least a point either in Paris or in Leipzig. The likelihood of that is incredibly dependant on the form of the sides going into the ties, with all the fixtures coming so quickly after one another.
The Red Devils will be looking to take maximum points from Istanbul and with no fans in attendance, the hostile environment that is usually such a factor when travelling to Turkey is no longer something they will need to deal with. With better quality players on the pitch, they need those players to perform to get a result.
Shabs, Rilwan and Dankoogs sit down to discuss:
– Everton Recap
– Season review (with predictions recap)
– El neny and Nketiah contracts
– Listeners Qs
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
I spoke with Tim, a regular cast member on the Touchline Fracas ‘Make United Great Again’ podcast, about his thoughts for the upcoming group stage and he told me how he believes United will fare.
“I think it will be tough, not sure we’ll qualify if I’m honest. I expect PSG to take 6 points from us and we probably share the spoils over 2 legs with Leipzig. On paper we should be grabbing 6 points from Istanbul but again I’m not too sure. I’m going to say we’ll finish on around 8 or 9 points and just scrape through our group. 6 from Istanbul, 2 or 3 from Leipzig and 0 from PSG.“
I have to agree in large parts with what Tim thinks. I think it will be incredibly difficult for Manchester United to take points away from Paris Saint-Germain whether it be at home or away. PSG are a tremendously organised side and with phenomenal ability in attack they are able to carve out opportunities against even the best defences in the world with the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
When it comes to Leipzig, both sides are pretty well matched. United have the better players on paper for the most part but Leipzig have the better coach and a system that they play to a very high standard. United will need to avoid defeat in Germany and pick up a win at Old Trafford to secure qualification and I believe they will be able to do that, while I expect Solskjær’s side to take maximum points from Istanbul.
Overall I think United will be able to scrape through into the Last 16, but they will need to minimise the amount of bad days they have at the office in Europe if they are to do so because Leipzig and PSG are both more than capable of punishing them and kicking them to the curb.
Tim is a regular cast member of popular football podcast group Touchline Fracas and appears on the Manchester United podcast ‘Make United Great Again’ every Tuesday night.
The Europa League enters its quarter-final stage this week as the new one-legged format kicks off in UEFA competitions.
Manchester United progressed to this round with a 7-1 aggregate win over LASK Linz, with a 2-1 win in the return leg last week. Goals from Jesse Lingard and substitute Anthony Martial saw them come from behind on the night, but the club were already comfortable following their 5-0 win in the first leg back in March.
Copenhagen come into this game following a 3-0 home win last week against Istanbul, giving them a 3-1 aggregate win after their first leg defeat pre-lockdown. Former Reds defender Guillermo Varela assisted Jonas Wind’s first of the night, before he doubled his tally from the spot. Rasmus Falk put the game beyond doubt just after the hour mark with a fine finish from the edge of the box.
The two sides have faced each other just twice before, with both teams winning one apiece in the 2006/07 Champions League group stages.
United will come into this game looking to win this entire competition, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær adamant that he wants a trophy to cap off a relatively successful season for his side. After finishing 3rd in the Premier League, the Red Devils secured Champions League football for next season and with a packed schedule many expected the fringe players to take over this competition with importance not being so high up on the priorities anymore.
However, Solskjær revealed during his pre-match press conference that only three regular first-teamers haven’t travelled as part of the squad to Cologne. Luke Shaw, Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones are all injured and unable to feature in any fixtures United could play in the remainder of the tournament so have been left at home. United have called up some younger talent though, as James Garner, Ethan Laird, Ethan Galbraith and Teden Mengi have all travelled.
Copenhagen boss Stale Solbakken has talked down his sides chances in this game. The Norwegian boss said “don’t put your house on us” when asked about his thoughts on the game, but they will look to attack down the flanks and stay solid defensively.
Man Utd: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams; Matic, Pogba; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial (4-2-3-1)
With an unchanged line-up for Copenhagen, they’ll match up with United’s strongest possible line-up in a 4-2-3-1 shape. Solskjær’s side have obviously got more individual quality and will be well rested since the end of the Premier League season. They’re in relatively good form and have enough depth and options that they can make changes if necessary and still be strong enough to dispatch of Copenhagen.
If the Reds can get an early goal and put this game to bed before the hour mark, expect them to rest players in anticipation for a much tougher semi-final clash the following Monday against either Wolves or Sevilla.
PREDICTION: Manchester United 3-0 FC Copenhagen – Martial, Fernandes, Rashford.
PICKS: Over 2.5 match goals – 8/13 Anthony Martial to score anytime – EVS