Manchester United will be desperate to return to winning ways when they take on Villarreal at El Madrigal in the UEFA Champions League.

The UEFA Champions League resumes this week with Matchday 5 of the group stage of the 2021/22 edition. Several intriguing match-ups are scheduled for Tuesday, and at El Madrigal, Villarreal will play hosts to Manchester United, with the two sides battling it out to claim the top spot in Group F.

Manchester United have entered a transitional period following the dismissal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from the managerial post. Michael Carrick has taken temporary charge of a team that has been incredibly inconsistent so far this season, including in the UEFA Champions League, where they have won two of their four games so far.

Villarreal have an identical record to Manchester United in Europe and are only lagging behind their visitors because they lost the reverse fixture. The Yellow Submarine have blown hot and cold lately, winning just two of their last six games in all competitions, with their slump in La Liga dropping them to 12th in the standings.

As iterated earlier, Manchester United won the reverse fixture, as they came from a goal down to beat Villarreal 2-1, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring an injury-time winner. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Villarreal

Unai Emery has several injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United. On Tuesday, the Villarreal manager could be bereft of the services of as many as five first-team players.

Fortunately for Emery, each of the players is only a doubt instead of a confirmed absentee. However, Gerard Moreno appears set to miss out, with Boulaye Dia expected to lead the line for Villarreal against Manchester United.

Apart from Gerard Moreno, Paco Alcacer (unspecified), Sergio Asenjo (unspecified), Etienne Capoue (unspecified), and Arnaut Danjuma (unspecified) have also left Emery sweating over their fitness issues. However, Danjuma is expected to start, lining up alongside Dia and Yeremi Pino in the final third.

Pino and Danjuma will provide a direct threat from the flanks, while Dia will offer a major goal threat. In the middle of the park, the onus will be on Francis Coquelin to keep things tight, especially trying to negate the influence of Donny van de Beek. Vicente Iborra and Dani Parejo will be the remaining two midfielders for Villarreal.

Raul Albion and Pau Torres will pair up at the heart of the Villarreal defence, with Juan Foyth and Alfonso Pedraza being the two full-backs. Finally, in goal, there is no looking past Geronimo Rulli in the absence of Asenjo.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza; Parejo, Iborra, Coquelin; Pino, Dia, Danjuma

Manchester United

Unlike his counterpart in the Villarreal dugout, Michael Carrick has several roster issues to contend with ahead of the trip to El Madrigal. On Tuesday, the Manchester United caretaker boss will have to make do without five first-team players.

The latest player to have picked up an issue is Luke Shaw, who sustained a concussion last time out against Watford. The English international could be rested here, with Alex Telles likely to start as the left-back. Apart from Shaw, Mason Greenwood (illness), Paul Pogba (thigh) and Raphael Varane (hamstring) also miss out, while Edinson Cavani is also a major doubt.

It is unclear what formation Carrick will utilise, but we are going with a 4-2-3-1 that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used for most of his stint with Manchester United. And there is unlikely to be a raft of changes to the starting lineup, with only subtle shuffles being made.

The most crucial of these changes will see Donny van de Beek get a rare start, taking his place in the double pivot alongside Fred. Fred will sit deep in the middle of the park while van de Beek will be tasked with transitioning from defence to attack efficiently and effectively.

The second key change should see Eric Bailly start in place of Victor Lindelof, preparing for the upcoming start against Chelsea due to Harry Maguire’s suspension. However, Maguire will pair up with Bailly at the heart of the Manchester United defence.

On the opposite end, Bruno Fernandes will reprise his usual no. 10 role, playing off of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose own form has been dwindling. Out wide, there is no looking past Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, both of whom will need to deliver the goods on Tuesday.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Telles; van de Beek, Fred; Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo

Key Stats

  • This will be Villarreal’s sixth UEFA Champions League match against Manchester United, more than they’ve faced any other in the competition. The Yellow Submarine are winless in all five previous meetings (D4 L1). The Red Devils have only faced CSKA Moscow and Bayer Leverkusen more often without losing in the Champions League (six games each).
  • Since losing 2-1 to Manchester United, Villarreal have won each of their last two UEFA Champions League games, beating Young Boys twice. They are looking to win three consecutive matches in the competition for the very first time.
  • Manchester United have failed to keep a single clean sheet in the UEFA Champions League this season, shipping seven goals in their four games so far. It is the most they have conceded at this stage of a Champions League season since 1998/99 (also seven), though they went on to win the trophy that season.
  • Villarreal have never beaten an English club in the UEFA Champions League in 11 attempts (D6 L5), the most of any side has faced English opponents without winning in Champions League history.
  • Manchester United have only won seven of their last 24 away UEFA Champions League matches (D6 L11) and are winless in their last four on the road (D1 L3) since a 2-1 win at PSG last October.

Player to Watch

Donny van de Beek

Embed from Getty Images

It is quite ironic that Donny van de Beek scored the final goal of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But that strike and an impressive performance off the bench was exactly what van de Beek needed to produce to make a case for himself and stake a claim for a regular berth in the starting lineup.

His first major chance of the season is likely to come against Villarreal, and the Dutch international will look to seize his opportunity. Another encouraging performance could go a long way in helping Manchester United book their place in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League, which could help turn his fortunes around.

Prediction

Villarreal 2-2 Manchester United

This match is as evenly poised as they come. Neither Villarreal nor Manchester United are in the best of forms heading into the fixture on Tuesday, although the hosts have still managed some wins. However, for some reason, the Yellow Submarine have a mental block against English teams in the UEFA Champions League, having never won in 11 attempts (D6 L5).

That record will likely continue on Tuesday, as Manchester United will be desperate to return to winning ways, with the new manager bounce coming into effect. However, their defensive frailties will come to the fore once again, thereby paving the way for Villarreal to hold them to a 2-2 draw, making the two Matchday 6 fixtures in Group F the big deciders for Round of 16 qualification.

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

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Sam Ope says:

    Straight win for man u

  2. Sam Ope says:

    Who is with me

  3. praise says:

    I should consist of 4-3-3
    shaw maguire bailley lindelof
    wan bi saka de beek sancho
    greenwood Ronaldo rashford

  4. FREY-NECESSAIRE says:

    Villa=2 Goals,

    MAN UTD =2 Goals

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