Manchester United Potential XI vs Liverpool

Credit: Lineup Builder
Credit: Lineup Builder /
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Coming off an FA Cup draw, Manchester United face elimination in the Europa League against Liverpool.

Manchester United will battle Liverpool on Thursday in the second leg of their Europa League meeting with a birth in the quarterfinals at stake.

In the first leg, the Reds proved far superior at Anfield, their home stadium, and dispatched United 2-0 rather easily. The two goal deficit and no away goals means the Red Devils will need to win big at Old Trafford.

Louis van Gaal has most of his squad back at full health, though several key players remain sidelined. With the Champions League qualification on the line, the manager cannot afford to rest any influential players. Liverpool have shown an ability in previous encounters to press United into giving up the ball, so players with strength in possession will surely be necessary.

If Manchester United fail to progress in the Europa League, it could mean a dismissal for van Gaal. With that in mind, here’s the potential XI that could see the squad through to the next round.

Goalkeeper: David de Gea

The Spaniard will be the first name on the teamsheet, and deservedly so. Week in and week out, de Gea reinforces his status as world class, the only of his kind in the current Manchester United squad. Without their keeper, the club would surely be in the bottom half of the Premier League.

Full-backs: Marcos Rojo and Guillermo Varela

Rojo is one of the few remaining healthy options at left-back, a position that has been particularly troublesome in terms of injuries. Previous starters Luke Shaw and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have been out for extended periods, while the Argentine himself has been sidelined. He hasn’t had much of an impact in his appearances on the left flank, but he receives the start by default.

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On the opposite side, Varela has retaken his starting spot from Matteo Darmian. The Uruguayan has been one of United’s best players since the start of the calendar year, while Darmian has struggled mightily. The former Torino defender came on to replace former in the West Ham match but only managed one touch on the ball. Unless Varela is seriously injured, which doesn’t appear to be the case, he deserves the start.

Center-backs: Chris Smalling and Daley Blind

Given the importance of the match, van Gaal will most likely revert to his favored central defensive pairing. Despite Blind’s evident fatigue in recent matches, Rojo’s involvement at left-back means there are few replacements available behind the Dutch international. With so much on the line, the manager simply cannot afford to start someone like Paddy McNair or to play Michael Carrick as a defender.

Holding Midfielders: The Schmidfield returns

The long-awaited return of Bastian Schweinsteiger to the Manchester United midfield has finally begun. His recent involvement as a substitute, with increasing game time, heralds the German’s impending full return to the starting squad. The Red Devils have desperately missed the midfielder’s calmness just ahead of the defense; Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, and Marouane Fellaini have all tried and failed to fill the void. With so much pressure on the team to perform against Liverpool, Schweinsteiger’s composure could prove vital.

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Alongside him, Louis van Gaal must start Morgan Schneiderlin. The midfield duo needs a combination of defensive fortitude to prevent further damage but attacking prowess to get the team back in the tie. Of the options to play alongside the former Bayern Munich man, the French international is the clear choice.

Attacking Midfield: Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial

Wing play will be likely be a deciding factor against Liverpool, as Manchester United’s best attacks this season have come from plays down the flanks between the wingers and wide defenders. Memphis and Martial are the most dangerous of the Red Devil wide men, both with tremendous pace and technical ability to put Clyne and Moreno on their heels. Jesse Lingard has received plenty of opportunities, and while he has proven adept as a goal scorer, the two other options are more equipped for a match of this level.

Juan Mata deserves the start at the no. 10 position. His interplay with the other attacking midfielders generates forward movements on the wings, while he can also poach a goal or two himself. Neither Herrera nor Fellaini are capable of delivering a performance equal to that of Mata, and van Gaal would be beside himself for starting either ahead of the former Chelsea man.

Striker: Marcus Rashford

With Martial starting on the wing, that leaves the young Manchester United academy product as the lone remaining striker. After his hot start in the famous red kit, Rashford has come back down to earth – as you’d expect for any player of his age. The manager has more recently used the natural striker as a winger due to absences to Mata and Lingard in matches, but the 18-year-old can be at his best when he leads the attacking line.

Which means the potential XI shapes up like this:

Credit: Lineup Builder
Credit: Lineup Builder /
Credit: Lineup Builder
Credit: Lineup Builder /

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The squad consists of players that have generally performed well over the course of the season, though Rojo is more so the result of a lack of alternatives. Even so, the team should be more than capable of beating Liverpool at Old Trafford, but whether or not they actually do so is an entirely different question.