Date: 29th September 2021 at 3:24pm
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Manchester United face Villarreal on Wednesday evening hoping to register their first points of this season’s Champions League, having fallen to defeat to Young Boys last time out. 

The defeat in Switzerland means that United will likely have to earn a positive result against Villarreal, who beat the Red Devils in last season’s Europa League final, if they are to progress from their Champions League group.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have plenty to think about ahead of kick-off, with his side having also succumbed to defeat against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.

Below, we look at the XI that Solskjaer could opt for:

Goalkeeper

Spaniard David de Gea has impressed since being reinstated as the club’s number one ‘keeper and will be selected for the visit of Villarreal. Second choice Dean Henderson’s only appearance of the season so far came in the Carabao Cup defeat to West Ham United, as the Englishman continues his return from injury.

Defence

At the back, Diogo Dalot could be handed a rare start as Aaron Wan-Bissaka begins the start of his extended two-match ban following his red card against Young Boys. The Portuguese is yet to start a game in the league or in Europe so far, but may well be called upon against Atalanta next time out too.

At centre-back, Raphael Varane will partner Victor Lindelof at the heart of United’s defence in the absence of captain Harry Maguire. The England international has been an ever present in defence so far this term, but will miss the visit of the Spaniards. Maguire is expected to be out of action for ‘a few weeks’.

Lindelof will likely deputise for the injured Harry Maguire

On the left, Luke Shaw is another nailed on starter for Solskjaer’s side, having carried his impressive form from last season into this campaign. The England star has been one of United’s more impressive players in the past 12 months, and his defensive capability will be relied upon.

Midfield

Solskjaer may opt to deploy a more defensive-minded pairing at the base of his midfield to make up for his depleted defence, with Fred and Scott McTominay his most likely choice.

McTominay could return to the starting XI on Wednesday evening

The pair offer a more solid defensive unit than United’s other options, and the likes of Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek will be left on the bench.

In the more advanced midfield role, Bruno Fernandes will start having impressed so far this season, despite a number of high profile signings around him. The Portuguese missed a crucial penalty in the defeat to Villa on Saturday, but few would bet against him bouncing back with a top performance on Wednesday.

Forwards

Up front, Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the line and will be hoping to get on the scoresheet having failed to score against Villa for the first time since rejoining the club.

Ronaldo has scored four goals in four games since returning to United

The five-time Ballon d’or winner scored on his Champions League return a fortnight ago, and will likely cause Villarreal a number of problems as he plays once again in a competition that he has dominated during the last decade.

Either side of him, Mason Greenwood could be preferred to Jadon Sancho, with the latter having failed to impress since joining from Borussia Dortmund over the summer. Greenwood, meanwhile, has been in good goalscoring form out wide and will be hoping to score for the first time in Europe this season.

On the left, Paul Pogba will expect to start having been displaced from midfield in favour of defensive stability. The Frenchman has been sensational for large parts of the opening weeks of the season, but struggled to influence the game in Switzerland and fans will be expecting an improved performance this time.

With high profile absences, particularly in defence, Solskjaer may well opt to resort to a defensive pairing in midfield, with Pogba likely to be the man to move elsewhere.

Having been on the end of one of the shock results of the opening round of matches, United will be desperate to show improvement and will know that another defeat could leave them far short of the top two in Group F.

 
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