Manchester United are delighted to be back in the Champions League courtesy of last season’s 3rd place finish under Ole Gunnare Solskjaer after missing out for a season. MatchDay two sees United welcome last year’s losing semi-finalists German side RP Leipzig to Old Trafford.
The only 11 years old club RP Leipzig owned by Red Bull announced themselves to Premier League fans when they blew Spurs away 4-0 on aggregate in last season’s round of 16 as Mourinho was forced to play Dele Alli as a striker.
Last time United beat PSG in the Champions League in 2019 it was courtesy of Marcus Rashford’s late, late penalty at the Parc De Princes. Ole’s remaining games that season fizzled out as the team were knocked out of the FA Cup, the Champions League and missed out on the top 4 only qualifying for the Europa League.
With the team feeling better about itself despite their 15th position in the League and meagre 7 points they have consolidated things after the 6-1 shellacking by Spurs at Old Trafford. The 4-1 away win over Newcastle followed by the 2-1 win over PSG and the disciplined if pretty low on ambition draw with Chelsea sees the team feeling much better about its defensive play.
For the Leipzig game, United will be intent on ending their unenviable 4 game winless streak at Old Trafford going back to the 2-2 draw with Southampton last season. It is hard to believe the streak would have reached 4 games if the fans had been allowed at Old Trafford. The supposed health crisis is allowing government to take advantage of the disease to enforce draconian lockdowns and ridiculous social distancing rules for an ailment far less deadly than the seasonal flu often is in a given winter.
The devastating effect to the football industry is the collapse of many small football related businesses particularly in the hospitality sector but also in the online football news space. We recognise how imperative it is to cocoon the elderly and those who are vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions but can the cure be worse than the disease with the damage happening to public health and commerce. Football needs the fans back and from a selfish point of view United need their fans back at Old Trafford. The Stretford End would have sucked the ball into the net for the winner vs Chelsea at the weekend but no-one was there sadly. Hopefully soon.
When it comes to Julian Nagelsmann’s Leipzig obviously they lost top scorer Timo Werner who joined United’s rivals Chelsea in the summer for a reported £47million fee but the German side have still got plenty of firepower after adding Justin Kluivert to their squad. Leipzig have got off to a red-hot unbeaten start including 4 Bundesliga wins, a League Cup win and the 2-0 home win in the Champions League vs Basaksehir last week. Leipzig are the early Bundesliga leaders sitting a point ahead of Bayern having only dropped 2 points in their 5 games so far.
Flying attacking full-back Angelino who joined Leipzig from United rivals Man City leads the club with 4 goals after his brace vs Basaksehir on Champions League MatchDay one, he’s followed by Danish ace Yussuf Poulsen with 3 goals and Swedish midfielder Emil Forsberg with 2 goals. There is no question the Germans are the form team in not only Germany but the whole of Europe so United will have all they can handle.
Ole has many options but based on last week’s performance, the form of his players and the need for a home win, United will need to balance defensive stability with attacking intent. The team will need to be clinical when the chances present themselves and that’s why I think the manager will hand new boy Edinson Cavani his full home debut. I can see Rashford also getting the nod upfront after his Paris heroics and Mason Greenwood should be selected as part of a fluid front 3 with goal-less Anthony Martial to come on as the first attacking change and the introduction of Jesse Lingard also a strong option.
In midfield I think van De Beek needs a start and it would be interesting to see him and Fernandes operate together for a whole game with Fred sitting to provide protection with Pogba to come from the bench
In defence selection will depend on the formation and there will be big decisions to be made on the starting centre-backs as we discussed yesterday in our analysis of current United centre-back options. I think Tuanzebe deserves the chance to partner Maguire after his impressive display vs PSG handling Mbappe, Neymar and company with Wan-Bissaka and Telles the starting full-backs.
So without further delay we are going with a 4-3-3 formation:
–Fred——Fernandes—-van De Beek–
Prediction: Man United 3-1 RP Leipzig