Manchester United make the trip to San Sebastian on Thursday to take on Real Sociedad in a game that will determine who tops the group.
Erik Ten Hag’s men face a difficult task against a Real Sociedad team who have a perfect record heading into the final Europa League group game on Thursday.
Finishing top of the Europa League group carries extra importance this season with the runner-up facing an additional fixture against one of the Champions League drop-outs for a place in the Round of 16.
Not only will Erik Ten Hag be keen to avoid another fixture which will add to an already congested schedule, avoiding the likes of Barcelona and Juventus so early will be key in United’s overall chances of winning a trophy in the Dutchman’s first season.
In order to top the group, The Reds will need to win by two clear goals in Spain after Thursday’s opponents ran out 1-0 winners at Old Trafford back in September. Whilst Real Sociedad have enjoyed a solid start to the season, they fell to a 2-0 home defeat to Real Betis at the weekend, a result that United will be hoping to copy on Thursday.
Manchester United’s defence in particular has impressed in recent weeks with Lisandro Martinez the standout player who will no doubt be the first name on the team sheet alongside David De Gea after his match winning performance on Sunday. Who partners him is the big question. Victor Lindelöf missed the game against West Ham through illness but should he recover in time, it would be fair to assume he would come back into the side. At this stage, Harry Maguire looks more likely.
Luke Shaw has regained his form in recent weeks but the United boss will be well aware that minutes need to be managed ahead of three games in a week – especially with Shaw’s track record of injuries - so Tyrrell Malacia could come back into the side.
The luxury of options on the left side of defence is unfortunately not the case on the right. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the forgotten man and it seems unlikely that Ten Hag would throw him back in the side for such a vital game. Diogo Dalot, who has been one of United’s standout performers this season, is almost a certain starter.
The midfield almost picks itself, especially with Bruno Fernandes being suspended for Sunday’s trip to Aston Villa. Casemiro and Christian Eriksen should start alongside him who have been vital cogs in the midfield engine room in recent weeks.
Antony Martial is back in training but Thursday has come too soon for him. Cristiano Ronaldo has started the last two fixtures and whilst three games in the space of a week might prove too much, absences might cause a third successive start for the striker, Marcus Rashford’s place in Thursday’s team is a given, but with both Antony and Jadon Sancho unavailable for the fixture, the third place in the attacking trio is likely to go to Anthony Elanga, who started in United's last Premier League game.
Full predicted line-up
David De Gea
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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