Aaron Wan-Bissaka would still keep his place for Premier League matches after his sacking in Bern and Diogo Dalot has been more involved than expected, emerging in the first half for the second week in a row due to the withdrawal of a full-back against Aston Villa.
Dalot was one of the best players in West Ham’s League Cup elimination and he played respectably three days later against Villa. He had known for two weeks that he would start tonight and an out of the ordinary display would put pressure on underperforming Wan-Bissaka.
Cavani and Ronaldo up front?
Gary Neville was reprimanded by Jamie Carragher on Twitter for including Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo in his best United XI on Monday. “Ossie Ardiles wouldn’t choose this team,” laughed Carragher, a reference to the Argentine’s gung-ho approach as Tottenham manager in the ’90s.
Neville’s 4-2-1-3 lineup offered an open goal for his detractors (‘no wonder you failed as a coach’ etc), but there is merit in pitting Cavani and Ronaldo against Raul. Albiol and Pau Torres this evening.
Cavani scored against Villarreal in the Europa League final but center-halfs Albiol and Torres were, overall, dominant and both were somewhat overlooked for the man of the match award.
Villarreal have mainly used 4-4-2 this season and United need a committed attacking performance after losses where the manager has given too much respect to their opponents.
How many changes?
Luke Shaw can make tonight’s game, but Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire are both definitely out. Solskjaer has spoken of his “confidence” in Scott McTominay and Fred, which is genuine, but he tends to praise a player before letting them down.
Jadon Sancho and Jesse Lingard are competing for the starts after staying in the stands at the weekend and Cavani is available again. There could be a minimum of four changes.
Change of midfield
Even Solskjaer cannot justify keeping Fred and McTominay. Midfielder Francis Coquelin is suspended and Villarreal have drawn in six of their seven games this season, four of them scoreless. United need a fifth striker tonight.
Fortunately, United have a midfielder recognized as a striker when he joined Donny van de Beek. The Dutchman started the first two games midweek of the season and has done well.
Joël Glazer back?
He said all United posted the ‘Joel Glazer meets United fans again’ story at a stupid time on Friday night, as if a reporter was putting down his tea and taking the laptop home.
The “still” is an acceptance of Glazer’s inability and refusal to communicate with his supporters for much of the past 16 and a half years. Glazer hasn’t been at Old Trafford since the last time a large crowd was in attendance for a Champions League game, against Barcelona in April 2019.
Joel’s brother Avram ended his exile to watch Cristiano Ronaldo’s second debut earlier this month. “Part-time” is too kind a description for absent owners.