Manchester United face LASK in the second leg of the Europa League Round of 16 with a five goal cushion at Old Trafford. United finished third in the Premier League. Arrival of Bruno Fernandes and come-backs of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford post-lockdown have really helped the team produce brilliant results.
However, some players are left to prove a point. Solskjaer didn’t give them opportunities because of Premier League’s highly competitive structure. Europa League proposes an opportunity to experiment with the squad. Here are five players who can redeem themselves:
A player that was considered a “ swoop “ by many is no longer considered as such. With the rise of prominence of Mason Greenwood and his refined chemistry with Rashford and Martial has found James to being left out on the bench.
But his contributions for the club before Project Restart should not go unnoticed. United had let Alexis Sanchez go in the summer and without a proper backup winger for the position of Dan James, the young lad who was brought from Swansea for 15 Million was forced to play his first season in the Premier League up from the championship week in week out.
While the performances of Dan James on paper don’t look that impressive, he still has had more assists in the Premier League this season than Bernado Silva and more goal contributions against the traditional top 6 than Sadio Mane.
It has been a quite decent campaign for Daniel James, but if he further wants to cement his position in the starting eleven as he had done at the start of the season, the Europa League campaign will prove to be made or break for him ahead of next season.
Andreas Pereira’s performance throughout this season has been one which is grated. Injuries to Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford presented him the opportunity to prove his worth as a Manchester United player, however, Andreas Pereira, whether it has been due to confidence issues or to put it plainly “ not being good enough “ United’s lack of quality in the key number 10 creative position had been exposed due to Pereira’s incompetence. Pereira has been ineffective in his game. While he tries hard, he just doesn’t have the guile United need. He has displayed no cutting edge at all this season for the reds.
With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer already looking to bring in another top-quality playmaker as a backup for the Fernandes-Pogba Partnership, these last 4 games of the Europa campaign might well end up being his last games if he doesn’t show up as the talismanic self he was at Valencia previously in his career, which often has been the bar with which he has been compared by Solskjaer and is the reason he has trusted him so far this season.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind at Carrington anymore that Jesse Lingard is being given another chance, a shot at redemption at life and most importantly for his Manchester United career. It would have been a shame for United as a club to have not supported Jesse through this difficult time and with mental health being preached in the world now more than ever, it is the club’s duty as well why they are called Manchester United.
But it is now Jesse Lingard’s duty as well. As much as United and Solskjaer would like to help him, its the football business that matters at the end of the day and if Jesse is serious about this, he needs to come out with all guns blazing in the remainder of the campaign.
The Scottish International was the backbone of the Manchester United team . Mctominay was quite literally running the midfield when no one else was performing in the middle of the park except him and Fred with Pogba out injured and an out of form, lethargic Matic.
Mctominay has proved his worth to Solskjaer this season by his dominating nature in matches. He hasn’t been one to shy away from tackles and has been able to anticipate counter-attacks and stop them before the opposing team can make something out of it. Mctominay has had a different and better spring in his step this season, something which we had not seen before and he feeds off his passion for the red shirt which enables him to make driving penetrating runs into the opposing half something which is not a part of his natural game. Alas, his injury proved to be a turning point in his first proper season for the reds.
McTominay suffered a knee ligament injury on 26 December, which prevented him from playing for two months. After he returned he had lost his place in the starting eleven although having shown flashes of his previous best with goals in the Round of 32 of the Europa League and a 40-yard screamer in front of the Stretford End.
With Nemanja Matic being well into his 30s and being incapable of playing the full 90 every week, this can be Mctominay’s golden chance to prove to Ole that he can be the man to take up the mantle of the combative and robust Central Defensive Midfielder position which The Serbian has donned since Project Restart.
On 23 June 2020, McTominay signed a new contract with Manchester United, keeping him at the club until June 2025.
Fred came into the season being labeled a 53m flop, but boy hasn’t he just show all his critics the door this season.
His numbers of pass completion rate, blocks, clearances, interceptions and chances created put him in the top 4 defensive midfielders in the league whilst already being ahead of Fabinho of Liverpool Fc and Rodri of Manchester City Fc despite playing 28 games out of the 38.
Solskjaer has reiterated time and time that Fred is going to be a competitive and core part of this Manchester United team going forward, but he faces a similar situation as to his ex midfield counterpart earlier in the season, Scott Mctominay in terms of breaking into the first team.
One of the main reasons for Fred’s revival has been that he was given a constant run of games. He could set the ball rolling which helped him get confidence grain by grain and build upon that to become the player he became and kept Solskjaer’s midfield relevant until the Fernandes-Pogba partnership was born.
Fred needs to maintain that run of games to not risk losing his preciously obtained momentum and break into the first eleven midfield position. The remainder of this European campaign is going to prove as crucial for him like all the others trying to prove a point to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United.