Manchester United managed to kickstart their Europa League campaign last night with a 1-0 win over Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on Thursday night. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s second half header was enough to seal victory after Wayne Rooney had miss-hit Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s cross, but United’s display was a world away from the one seen last weekend against Leicester City. Admittedly, Zorya were far more compact and disciplined in defence than the reigning Premier League champions were, but it’s not unfair to have expected more from United, especially given the quality of the line-up that Jose Mourinho chose.
With that said, the Portuguese also made several changes to the side that faced Leicester with Sunday’s game with Stoke City in mind. The Potters have recorded two points from six Premier League games, and sit 19th in the table, but Mourinho will still want his side to make a statement ahead of the upcoming international break. We expect him to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation but couple of changes will certainly be made.
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So, who should be brought back into the side this weekend?
Marouane Fellaini didn’t do a bad job alongside Paul Pogba last night, but the difference between utilising Ander Herrera and his Belgian teammate was very noticeable against Zorya. Against Leicester, the Spaniard won possession back, passed it on quickly and got involved with useful, incisive passing when called upon. When it comes to Fellaini, whilst he now looks a far more competent presence in midfield than he has ever done during his time at United, he won’t suddenly become sharper in the pass and react to situations quicker. Herrera can offer a quick link between midfield and attack, and United missed his ability to deal with the ball and react to situations quicker on Thursday.
It’s no surprise that the Dutchman was rested for this tie, given that he had started last week’s EFL Cup tie against Northampton Town and then the game against Leicester, but United missed his presence at left back. Blind’s set-piece deliveries were a key component in victory last week, and there is simply no doubting his superior ability to Marcos Rojo on the left-hand side of defence.
The Frenchman returned to action last night after a two-game absence due to picking up an injury against Watford earlier in the month, and is in need of a goal to boost his confidence having endured a tricky start to this season. Martial still has quality in abundance, and Mourinho will be keenly aware of the need to play his young star out of his current slump. Plus, with Jesse Lingard struggling to link up effectively with his teammates last night, it’s easily arguable that putting Martial into Sunday’s starting XI would help the side.