Manchester United travel to Valencia on Wednesday night for a game that could arguably be classified as a dead rubber. Such games are rare to come by in a competition like the Champions League. However, with United’s place in the next round alongside Juventus already confirmed after their 1-0 win over Young Boys a couple of weeks ago, this appears to be nothing but a meaningless friendly.
With the massive game against arch rivals and current league leaders Liverpool to come on Sunday, Jose Mourinho can be forgiven for treating it as such. Valencia have already been knocked out of the Champions League, and the only thing United have to play for is top spot. That isn’t exactly in their hands either, as Young Boys would have to pull off a miracle and beat Juventus and United would have to win in Spain.
Judging by the squad that Mourinho has opted to take with him, it looks like his primary focus is the big game at Anfield. A number of youngsters have trained with the first team and it could be one of those games where players with a point to prove attempt to show their worth. Here’s what the line-up might look like:
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero.
David de Gea hasn’t traveled with the squad, which means he will not be involved in a game for the first time this season. Instead, Sergio Romero will finally get to have minutes under his belt and once again prove his worth as a reliable back-up goalkeeper.
Defenders: Ashley Young, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia
Mourinho would probably have loved an opportunity to rest his key defenders, but he just doesn’t have the luxury of doing so at the moment. Chris Smalling isn’t fully fit but has been apparently playing through the pain. Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof are both out due to injuries. Despite him starting against Fulham, Phil Jones’s fitness remains as unpredictable as Mourinho’s starting line-ups. He does have a place in the squad, though.
Antonio Valencia has been out of action for quite a while now, but is finally fit again and ready to put in a shift at right-back. Ashley Young is set to keep his place after a lovely performance against Fulham. Jones aside, Bailly and Rojo are Mourinho’s only options at center-back and are expected to start.
Midfielders: Andreas Pereira, Fred, Paul Pogba
It’s been ages since Andreas Pereira has started a game, but with Nemanja Matic rested, he could finally get a chance to prove himself again. Prior to the game against Fulham, Mourinho claimed that Fred would be a completely different player under him if United were stable defensively. The defense tomorrow might be makeshift at best, but considering the lack of importance surrounding this game, he may just be given the chance to start.
Mourinho already confirmed that Paul Pogba would start on Wednesday, having dropped him in favour of Ander Herrera over the last two games.
Forwards: Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard
Mata was magnificent against Fulham and United always look a better, more cohesive side when he starts. Lukaku’s goal drought appears to be over, having scored 2 in his last 2 games.
Anthony Martial is out due to injury and Marcus Rashford may start on the bench to keep him protected for the Liverpool game, meaning Jesse Lingard could start on the right.
Mason Greenwood and James Garner have both been training with the first team and are surprise inclusions in the squad. However, they are unlikely to take part in the game.
Confirmed United squad members according to Manchester Evening News:
Sergio Romero, Lee Grant, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Fred, Andreas Pereira, Ander Herrera, Scott McTominay, James Garner, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood