Manchester United: Champions League group stage preview

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United shows appreciation to the fans after the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford on August 13, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United shows appreciation to the fans after the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford on August 13, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Manchester United are back … in the Champions League. Thankfully. It was a nail-biting process, but the Reds clinched a birth in the world’s most elite club competition thanks to its Europa League final win over Ajax; and with the first games of the group stage tomorrow, here’s a look at what to expect from United.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 09: Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 09: Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) /

Jose Mourinho has United up and running this season, and despite the draw with Stoke over the weekend, he’ll be looking to carry that positive play into the Champions League.

United were gifted one of the most favorable groups in the Champions League — however, that doesn’t mean that the squad should overlook any of their opponents. We all remember what happened in 2015.

Perhaps United’s greatest advantage in Europe is the fortress that is Old Trafford. United are unbeaten at home in its last 18 UEFA matches, a stretch that goes all the way back to March 2013.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 26: (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 26: (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

The Red Devils will need to capitalize on home matches, taking as many of the 9 possible points they can as they look to finish on top of the group.

There’s lots of intrigue to see how United’s relatively young and untested side cope with the difficulties Champions League entails. But if Europa League was any sort of measure, they should be fine.

United play host to Basel tomorrow, the first of 6 group stage game days. A win at home is a must. Anything else will be considered a failure.

The Red Devils certainly have the depth to compete on both the domestic and European fronts, so freshly rotated sides should become the norm for the immediate future.

It seems like an eternity since United made a splash in the Champions League. The 2015 campaign was a catastrophe, and even advancing to the knockout stages was muddled by the dismal performances in the league with David Moyes at the helm.

Despite that –there is a sense that this time around things may be different.

The chances of winning the Champions League are small. That’s alright. A trip to the quarter- or even semifinals would show that United are on the right track — and with a squad so young they would garner the respect from fellow European giants.

Paul Pogba was one of the driving forces behind Juventus 2015 run to the final, and he is certainly more than capable of propelling the Red Devils deep into the competition this season.

BERLIN, GERMANY – JUNE 06: (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY – JUNE 06: (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) /

United have spent the cash and now have the squad. It’s up to The Special One to show the United faithful he is the man to bring United back to the glory days.

Next: Ander Herrera: Manchester United must be humble

Group A predictions:

First: Manchester United

Second: Benefica

Third: CSKA Moskow

Fourth: Basel