By Imran Kardar
Manchester United returns to the Champions League after a year’s break owing to that disastrous season under David Moyes! Excitement levels are high amongst the players and the fans but can United successfully challenge in Europe? Are they lacking in fire power upfront? Could a lack of goal scoring players dampen the European run? Is the defense strong enough to fend off the challenges of the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid? Only time will tell but I for one feel that United can actually have a better run in Europe than in the EPL.
United have been drawn with PSV, Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow. Many having been saying that United have gotten an easy draw but nothing in Europe is easy, just ask Man City! Opening game for United is away to PSV, home of Memphis Depay before his transfer to Manchester United. So a return to his home land and his former team is on the cards. United have travelled with a strong squad baring Wayne Rooney who misses with a hamstring injury. I wouldn’t expect many changes in the lineup to the one that played on the weekend. LVG surprised a few by playing Fellaini as a striker with Ander Herrera behind him in the No.10. I expect the team to be similar with one change of Schneiderlin coming in for most likely Schweinsteiger. Memphis, though subbed at half time on the weekend against Liverpool, could keep his place due to the match being against his former team. So United should look like this: DDG, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Depay, Herrera, Mata, Fellaini. There must be temptation to start with Martial after his absolutely awesome introduction against Liverpool. I for one would hold Martial back for this game, bring him on late on just to ease him in to the team and ease off the pressure on him.
United will miss Rooney in this game. It’s not an easy away game to a good team in PSV. There might not be many clear cut chances in the game and it could require the experience of Wazza. Though Carrick and Schweinsteiger will give United that experience in the middle I have serious doubts about poor Fellaini being converted in to a striker. Last season he did well as a No.10 taking in the crosses and long balls and feeding it to players in and around him. But to ask him to share the burden of goal scoring for a team such as United over the course of the season won’t be too easy. He is known to having a temper and if things don’t work out for him up top you could see a bad challenge or two in the games. I’m glad that Wilson has travelled with the team and I hope he gets a look in and some playing time. There is talk that he might go off on loan to Derby in the Championship but that move could be a big mistake on LVG’s part. United will need a back up to Rooney and Martial who are the only true out and out strikers for Manchester United.
This will be a tough game for United and possibly a tough return to the Champions League. I’m predicting a scoring draw, 1-1. A win would be ideal for United but I can’t see many goals in this one. United need to make sure that their return to Europe and the Champions League starts on a positive note to ease the pressure! It’s time to dream again United fans! Glory, Glory, Man United!