The group stage of the UEFA Europa League reaches its end on Thursday night, and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United travel to Ukraine to face Zorya Luhansk for their final Group A clash.
A place in the Round of 32 is on the line for Manchester United, and top spot in Group A could be up for grabs as well, when they visit the Chornomorets Stadium in Odessa to face European minnows Zorya on Thursday. The reverse fixture saw the Red Devils edge out a fighting Zorya 1-0 back in September.
Their most recent European outing saw Manchester United romp home to a thumping 4-0 win over Feyenoord. The result helped Jose Mourinho’s side leapfrog the Dutch outfit into second spot, meaning a draw on Thursday will be enough to see them through to the knockout stage. Here’s the team news ahead of the match at Odessa on Thursday.
Manchester United’s troubles with injuries seem to be reaching an end, with only defenders Chris Smalling (toe) and Luke Shaw (knock) out with injuries. Both Smalling and Shaw miss the trip to Ukraine, as do fellow defenders Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian and midfield lynchpin Michael Carrick, who have all been rested.
When asked about the rested trio during his pre-match press conference, Mourinho said: “The players I had to leave out to protect, I left them in Manchester. The ones that I brought, I brought them to play.” Meanwhile, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay, who are seemingly on the way out of Old Trafford, have also been excluded from Manchester United’s 19-man squad.
On the positive side, the latest injury comeback has seen centre back Eric Bailly return to the first team fold after spending more than a month on the sidelines with the knee injury he sustained during United’s humiliating 4-0 loss at Chelsea in October. The Ivory Coast international rejoined training last week after stepping up his recovery and he could be in contention to start on Thursday.
Speaking on his delight to have Bailly back in action, Mourinho said: “Now we have Bailly back but we know we are going to lose him in a few weeks because he goes to the African Cup of Nations. But, in this period of Christmas, where we play every three days, it’s very important to have one more option.”
Top spot is still up for grabs, which is why Mourinho could choose to hand starts to most of his star players. The midfield pivot of Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera is expected to sit in front of the back four, which could see the return of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Daley Blind in the absence of Valencia, Darmian and Shaw.
Up front, Wayne Rooney is likely to return to the starting XI after missing out on the clash against his boyhood club Everton on the weekend due to suspension, as should Juan Mata. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to continue as the spearhead of the attack, with either Marcus Rashford or Jesse Lingard lining up on the left flank.
Here’s the 19-man squad travelling to Odessa for the match against Zorya:
Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Sam Johnstone
Defenders: Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Ashley Young
Midfielders: Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Attackers: Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.