Manchester United will be aiming to return to winning ways when they lock horns with Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night.

Manchester United will be hoping to bounce back from their recent rut and get off the mark in the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League when they play hosts to Villarreal in Group F, in what will be a replay of the Europa League finals from last season.

The past fortnight has been a difficult one for Manchester United, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co. losing three of their last four games across all competitions, including their Champions League opener against Young Boys, leaving them rooted to the bottom of Group F. The Red Devils lost each of their last two games, both at home and will be desperate to set things right as pressure mounts on the manager.

Villarreal, meanwhile, are unbeaten in the new season following their UEFA Super Cup penalty loss to Chelsea. However, wins have been hard to come by for Unai Emery’s side, who have picked up just one victory in six league outings, drawing five, with the latest coming against Real Madrid. Their Champions League opener also ended in a 2-2 draw against Atalanta.

As iterated earlier, Manchester United and Villarreal faced in the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League final four months earlier, with the Yellow Submarine clinching a penalty shootout victory on the night. Ahead of their latest meeting on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News &  Tactics

Manchester United

Manchester United will have to make do without the services of club captain Harry Maguire who picked up an injury in the Aston Villa defeat last weekend. Luke Shaw was also injured in that game and is unlikely to future either. Marcus Rashford and Adam Diallo are the other two injury-related absentees for the Red Devils. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is suspended after his red card against Young Boys.

David de Gea is a certain starter in goal after showing impressive form in the new season. Raphael Varane ought to be in line for a change of partners, with Victor Lindelof expected to come in for the injured Maguire. Diogo Dalot should slot in at right-back in Wan-Bissaka’s absence, while Alex Telles should feature on the left.

Scott McTominay will have a key role to play in the middle of the park, cutting out counter-attacks from the visitors. He should be paired up alongside Paul Pogba, with the Frenchman tasked with providing the chance-creation for the 20-time English champions. He will share the creative burden with Bruno Fernandes, who will line up as the No. 10.

The attacking unit should comprise Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho out on the flanks, with the latter hoping to find some form after a difficult start. Cristiano Ronaldo will spearhead the Manchester United attack with the likes of Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani providing options from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Dalot, Varane, Lindelof, Telles; McTominay, Pogba; Greenwood, Fernandes, Sancho; Ronaldo


Villarreal have a number of injury issues to deal with for their trip to England as the likes of Samu Chukwueze, Dani Raba, Gerard Moreno and Yeremi Pino are set to miss out while Francis Coquelin is ruled out due to suspension. Juan Foyth, who picked up an injury against Real Madrid at the weekend, has returned to training and is likely to be available.

Emery will set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Geronimo Ruill manning the goal for the Yellow Submarine. With Foyth fit, he should get the nod at right-back, while Alfonso Pedraza ought to feature ahead of Alberto Moreno at left-back. Raul Albiol and Pau Torres should pair up at the heart of the defence.

Etienne Capoue will be tasked with keeping a close watch on Bruno Fernandes and limiting his output on the ball while the attacking thrust from the centre of the park ought to come from Dani Parejo and Manu Trigueros.

Moi Gomez and Arnaut Danjuma, who has been linked with Liverpool, should start as the wingers on the right and left sides, respectively and will pose a major threat going forward for Manchester United. Paco Alcacer will be the man leading the line for the La Liga giants.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza; Parejo, Capoue, Trigueros; Gomez, Alcacer, Danjuma

Key Stats

  • The five meetings in European competition between Manchester United and Villarreal have all ended in draws, with four of them goalless, except for last season’s UEFA Europa League final (1-1), which the Spaniards won 11-10 on penalties.
  • The four UEFA Champions League clashes between Manchester United and Villarreal have all finished 0-0, making it the most played fixture in the history of the competition to see no goals scored.
  • Manchester United are winless in their last seven games against Spanish teams in the UEFA Champions League (D3 L4), with their last such victory coming against Real Sociedad back in October 2013 (1-0).
  • Villarreal are unbeaten in their last 16 major UEFA European games (W12 D4) across the Europa League and Champions League, the longest current run of any side. The only Spanish team to have a longer run of unbeaten games in UEFA European history is Espanyol between September 2006 and November 2019 (20 in a row).
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will break Iker Casillas’ record for UEFA Champions League appearances if he appears in this match, setting a new record of 178 games. However, Ronaldo has never scored against Villarreal in four previous appearances against them in the competition, only facing Lille and Benfica as often without finding the net (also four games against them).

Player to Watch

Bruno Fernandes

Time to step up (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Time to step up (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Manchester United’s main man, Bruno Fernandes, will be under pressure to deliver on Wednesday after having cost the team a chance at drawing the game against Aston Villa. One of the most reliable players from the penalty spot, the Portuguese superstar shot over from 12 yards out in stoppage time, as United lost 0-1.

Given how important he is to the team, Manchester United will be hoping that the 27-year-old will be able to leave behind everything that went down at the weekend and start afresh. With Villarreal likely to sit deep and defend in numbers, Fernandes, with his range of passing and vision, will be crucial to Manchester United’s chances.


Manchester United 1-1 Villarreal

The last couple of weeks have been difficult for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with question marks being asked about his suitability for the job. Another loss on Wednesday, and the noises will grow stronger. Things will not be easy against Villarreal, who have proven to be a difficult team to break down, even if they have not picked up many wins.

It could end up being a cagey affair in which chances are likely to be limited and in the end, both teams should end up sharing the spoils, which does not bode well for Manchester United.

2 Responses to “Manchester United vs Villarreal Preview: Probable Lineups, Prediction, Tactics, Team News & Key Stats”

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  1. Binyam says:

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