Erik Ten Hag reveals plans to get back on track in the Europa League, despite losing his opener against Real Sociedad. Manchester United is set to unleash a new midfield against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League on Thursday evening, following the postponement of Sunday’s trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace.
The journey to Moldova, which will be the first-ever meeting between the two clubs, provides United with the opportunity to attempt and earn their first point in Group E after losing their opening match 1-0 to Real Sociedad last week.
After a 3-1 victory against Arsenal four days prior, manager Erik ten Hag decided to make six changes to his lineup for the visit of the Spanish team to Old Trafford.
The decision did not come as much of a surprise. United are the overwhelming favorites to emerge victorious from Group E, and they possess an abundance of depth to ensure they accomplish their objective.
But their performance against Sociedad may be influenced by the gloomy atmosphere at Old Trafford when the Queen’s death was announced 90 minutes before kickoff, which was a reminder that they won’t always have their way.
The other three teams in their group, Sociedad, Sheriff, and Omonia Nicosia, will approach their respective matches against United as their separate cup finals.
It is for this reason that United, in a season in which they cannot afford to ignore the Europa League given its potential to break their trophy drought, must leave nothing to chance against Sheriff, who have the ability to humble European football’s most dominant clubs. Just ask Real Madrid.
United will now go exactly a month without playing a Premier League match, with the international break also looming.
The postponement of the match against Palace follows confirmation that United’s Sunday match against Leeds United will also be postponed.
Marcus Rashford, who was rested against Sociedad, risks missing a full month of action if he is left off the roster for the match against Sheriff.
Likewise, the same might be stated about Scott McTominay. He was also rested against Sociedad, allowing Casemiro to earn his first start for United since his transfer from Real Madrid last month.
The Brazilian’s complete debut was not the most impressive, as he struggled to find a rhythm, but it was evident that he needed more playing time alongside the players that would comprise Ten Hag’s strongest starting lineup.
He deserves time to acclimatize to United’s style of play and have a grasp of how his teammates function.
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Casemiro can only build this understanding through play.
McTominay has improved since the former Real Madrid player arrived at Old Trafford, validating Ten Hag’s choice to keep him in the lineup.
However, it is widely believed that Casemiro will eventually replace McTominay and assume the defensive-midfield position that everyone expected him to assume upon his recent arrival.
Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes should play ahead of him in the midfield trio whenever this change of guard occurs.
Eriksen and Fernandes have secured their positions in Ten Hag’s strongest lineup in recent weeks by delivering outstanding performances.
United’s No. 10 is Fernandes, while Eriksen has excelled as the shuttle between the two positions.
Against Sociedad, Casemiro lined up in midfield with Eriksen and Fred, but Fred, strangely, played in the most advanced midfield position. Ten Hag made a decision that backfired.
Therefore, returning Fernandes and pairing him with Casemiro and Eriksen would provide Ten Hag with the opportunity to evaluate what is anticipated to become his starting midfield.
United is anticipated to win against Sheriff, so it seems like the right time to test the waters.
You could have argued that the Leeds game, which was initially planned for three days later, was of more importance and that Ten Hag could not afford to lose his best players.
However, the Europa League and the impending postponement provide United with an opportunity to express their trophy ambitions. Play it correctly, and it might be a win-win situation for everyone involved.