Having endured a torrid start to their domestic campaign, Manchester United turn to Europe to try and find some solace and, hopefully, a return to winning ways.
However, a trip to Donetsk to face the current Ukrainian champions is hardly the sort of fixture that could fill Reds with confidence ahead of kick-off, particularly considering the Mircea Lucescu’s team are everything United are not at the moment – a club who are happy to spend in the transfer window and who like to play a quick, crisp, passing game on the pitch.
Shakthar lost star men Willian to Chelsea, Fernandinho to Manchester City and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Borussia Dortmund in the summer, but replaced them with Ismaily, Fernando, Fred, Taison, Wellington Nem, Bernard, who have gone to bolster the already sizeable Brazilian contingent, and the Argentinian Facundo Ferreyra.
Shakthar’s beloved 4-2-3-1 hinges on the pace and technique of the three attacking midfielders, one of whom, Douglas Costa, was on United’s radar for some time – as was half of the world’s footballers – while Alex Teixeira will arguably be the main danger for United’s back four, from which Rio Ferdinand has been omitted due to a slight groin problem.
Rio’s absence means that one between Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans will partner Nemanja Vidic in the middle of the defence, with Patrice Evra expected to be restored at left-back, while Rafael should come in on the other flank. Both full-backs will have their hands full as they’ll have to try to contain Douglas Costa and Taison, as both wingers like to drift in from out wide, while right-back Darjio Srna is a threat from set-pieces.
There are extremely positive news for all of us as far as the midfield is concerned, for Anderson hasn’t even traveled with the team to Ukraine and David Moyes is expected to opt for the same 4-2-3-1 formation that proved successful against Bayer Leverkusen, with Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick in front of the back four and a trio supporting Robin Van Persie.
Wayne Rooney will obviously be one of the three, but the other two spots remain up for grabs, with fit-again Danny Welbeck likely to be included ahead of Shinji Kagawa, while Nani, who’s available again after his suspension, could get the nod ahead of Antonio Valencia on the right.
Shakthar’s boss Mircea Lucescu has criticised David Moyes’ propensity for rotation, claiming that it has hindered United so far this season, but the United manager hit back at his counterpart saying that: “It never caused Sir Alex Ferguson any problems.
“Manchester United have always had big squad of players and it’s my job to use them and find out what is suitable. And, as I said earlier, I’m getting to know them much better.”
Shakthar have never lost at home against an English side, winning four times in five attempts, while United’s only trip to Ukraine ended with a 4-2 win against Dynamo Kiev in the group stages of the 2007-08 season, when United then ended up winning the European Cup for a third time.
A win tonight must be a good omen, surely?
Shakhtar Donetsk Pyatov; Srna, Rakitskiy, Kucher, Shevchuk; Hubschman, Fernando; Costa, Teixeira, Taison; Adriano.
Manchester United De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fellaini; Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck; van Persie.
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