Manchester Evening News

Manchester United might already know their Europa League final line-up

Manchester Evening News logo Manchester Evening News 17/05/2021 07:00:00 Dominic Booth

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer often plays a canny game with the media when it comes to injury updates, but even for the Manchester United boss this one was cryptic.

The very fact he was being asked about the Europa League in a dedicated press conference 10 days before it actually takes place was strange in itself - although predictable as part of UEFA media protocol. So the fact he was asked about Harry Maguire's fitness for the Europa League final should have been a surprise to absolutely nobody.

Solskjaer couldn't give a definitive answer, because no doubt his medical team have no definite answer themselves at this stage.

The Norwegian had spoken directly with Maguire on Sunday morning after the United squad had been given Friday and Saturday as days off. And the prognosis was 'positive', if slightly vague and hopeful sounding from the manager.

"We decided we have to focus, have to be positive and think that you're going to make it until you have to say 'no'," Solskjaer said on Maguire.

"I've always been an optimist, so we're positive. Hopefully we can have good news early, I'll give it as long as it takes."

It was as much a reinforcement of Maguire's importance to United as the defensive disasterclass against Liverpool had been.

Eric Bailly may have been rewarded with a contract extension recently, but since his return from a positive covid-19 test, the Ivorian has looked particularly shaky. His partnership with Victor Lindelof lacks the composure and leadership that the one between the Swede and Maguire has consistently shown.

It goes without saying that if there's any chance of Maguire being fit for the Europa League final against Villarreal, then the United captain will start. But that currently looks like a long shot.

The other pieces are starting to come together, in terms of United's line up in Gdansk on May 26th.

Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka can prepare themselves now for starting berths in Poland, while it seems very likely Solskjaer will stick with his tried and trusted central midfield duo of Fred and Scott McTominay - despite many fans' aversions to the pairing.

Paul Pogba will be accommodated in a wide role where he's shone in many big games of late. Bruno Fernandes will start. Edinson Cavani has to lead the line.

Save for Maguire and the centre-back position alongside Lindelof, there are really only two apparently dilemmas for Solskjaer between now and May 26th; who starts in goal? And which of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood starts, and who will begin the showpiece game on the bench?

The goalkeeping 'dilemma' may turn out to be nothing of the sort, given David de Gea's heroic performance in the semi-final second leg against AS Roma and his status as the 'Europa League keeper' for now. The Spaniard deserves a place in the starting line-up and Solskjaer may just grant him a final hurrah in a United shirt before the possibility of a summer exit looms large.

Dean Henderson will hope to get opportunities in finals for United further down the line, providing he continues as the No.1 in goal.

Greenwood deserves to start on the right flank on form. He's been a revelation in that position of late, prompting debate about his long-term favoured position. He also allows Pogba to cut in from the left, where he's much more effective.

Rashford has never looked a good fit on the United right; far more incisive when dovetailing with Shaw down the left.

As it stands, however, Solskjaer could well stay loyal to one of his more valued lieutenants in Rashford.

But if United go into the final against Villarreal without Greenwood and Maguire, and with Fred and McTominay in midfield, don't be surprised to see some worried predictions from the Red Army on social media. Nine days to go.

Possible United XI for Europa League final: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba; Cavani.

lundi 17 mai 2021 10:00:00 Categories: Manchester Evening News

ShareButton
ShareButton
ShareButton
  • RSS
Suomi sisu kantaa
NorpaNet Beta 1.1.0.18818 - Firebird 5.0 Initial LI-T6.3.0.40

TetraSys Oy.

TetraSys Oy.