Manchester United will take on Barcelona in the second leg of their Europa League clash on Thursday. The first leg at Camp Nou ended in a 2-2 draw. The Red Devils will be looking to capitalize on their home advantage in the return leg.
However, Barcelona, who is eight points clear the top of La Liga after 22 matches, are not likely to prove to be an easy opposition. Hence, Erik ten Hag’s men should have their task cut out. They will have to perform to their best to qualify for the next round.
In this article, we will take a look at three changes United should come up with in the match.
Raphael Varane returns to the staring eleven to strengthen Manchester United’s defense
Varane, who was rested in United’s win over Leicester City in the Premier League last Sunday, should make a return to the starting eleven against Barcelona. He will have the unenviable job of dealing with the threat posed by Robert Lewandowski.
However, partnered by the feisty Lisandro Martinez, Varane should be able to use his vast experience to good effect against Barca. Varane enjoyed a long and successful stint with Real Madrid. Therefore, the Frenchman is quite well-versed with Barcelona’s style of play.
United will be able to start their best possible back-four, with Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw as the fullbacks. They might have to curb their attacking instinct somewhat to guard against the runs of Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha.
Casemiro to bolster United’s midfield
Thursday’s match should also see the return of Casemiro from suspension. The Brazilian defensive midfielder has been one of the signings of the season and United will require him to perform well against Barca.
The 30-year-old Brazilian is another former Real Madrid player. As a result, he is no stranger to big games against Barca. He will be looking to anchor the defense with his assuring presence. Furthermore, the Brazilian will also look to pick out his teammates with his probing through passes from the deep.
He is likely to be partnered by Marcel Sabitzer, who is on loan from Bayern Munich. The former Leipzig man has impressed in the last few matches, in the double pivot in United’s 4-2-3-1. His composure on the ball and quality distribution is what Manchester United will need against Barca. Hence, it is likely that Fred starts on the bench on Thursday. Ten Hag, for one, will not be complaining and will like to have such healthy competition within his squad.
Jadon Sancho starting as the number 10
Sancho might very well be United’s number 10 against Barca after his impressive showing against Leicester on Sunday. Both Sancho and Marcus Rashford, United’s go-to man at the moment, prefer to play on the left flank.
However, should Sancho start as the 10, United will be able to play Rashford on the left and Wout Weghorst as the centre-forward. Weghorst has played behind the striker a few times. Yet, it is clear that he does not have the requisite skills to excel in that position despite having a good work-rate.
Therefore, we might see Sancho in the middle, with Bruno Fernandes against starting on the right flank. He registered a couple of assists against Leicester while playing in that position. Thus, Ten Hag day differ from tinkering with his position against Barca.
That arrangement will also mean that Manchester United will still be able to call upon the services of Antony and Alesandro Garnacho from the bench. Garnacho, in particular, has been really influential after coming in as a substitute this season and might trouble the Barca defense with his explosive runs.