While we have straight wins in the group, Benfica lost 2-1 to CSKA and got thrashed 5-0 by Basel. They are in a must win situation and it is always tough to play against determined sides.
I think we should prioritize these Champions League games for now because if we get two more wins, there is nothing stopping us from entering the round of 16, which only starts in February. So we get over 3-4 months to concentrate on the league and not bother with midweek distractions. Our top players can be rested instead of making them travel and play 90 minutes in cold conditions. We saw this in Fergie’s last season where we qualified from the group within four games and then completely shift our focus to the Premier League. He played academy players in the remaining matches and we picked up a lot of points in the November-December period. Also, if results go our way in the game between CSKA and Basel, we can virtually seal our place in the round of 16.
So, without further ado, let’s get down to the lineups!
Goalkeeper: There is no scope of any discussion here. De Gea proved why he is the best goalkeeper in the world, against Liverpool. He retains his place in the lineup, without doubt.
Defenders: I will go for Ashley Young at right back because Valencia uses a lot of pace and effort in every match and he is at the age where playing two games with that work-rate is not ideal. Smalling and Lindelof, our Champions League duo, will start at the heart of defence. I’d slot Daley Blind at left back so we can convert to a three man defence of Smalling-Lindelof-Blind while Young whips in crosses ahead. Shaw and Rojo have traveled but I am certain neither will start. They might come on with a few minutes left.
Midfielders: In midfield, we don’t have any options as Carrick, Pogba and Fellaini have been ruled out of the game. So the that means Herrera and Matic get to start again. After doing a number on Liverpool’s midfield, their place is warranted. However, none of them are distributors and that is what cost us two points at Anfield. To solve this problem, I suggest we play Mata in the hole where he can collect short passes from Ander and feed them to our forwards. I would love it if Pogba makes his return with a little cameo appearance.
Forwards: A knock keeps Rashford out of the squad which means that it will definitely be Mkhitaryan and Martial playing on either side of Lukaku. If pace is lacking, we might get Lingard on to speed things up.
So my lineup is: De Gea; Young, Smalling, Lindelof, Blind; Matic, Herrera, Mata; Mkhitaryan, Lukaku, Rashford.
About Lindelof’s former team, there isn’t much to say, really. They have a squad with a bunch of half decent players that we should not be worried of. They are currently third in the Portuguese Primera Division and their Champions League form is dreadful. We should capitalize on it and get the job done by the 60th minute. I’m going for 3-0 to Man United! Let me known what you guys think the score will be!