Manchester United finally bring back Champions League for the Old Trafford faithful after a year long hiatus, albeit in testing circumstances. After the shock defeat to Eindhoven the team must merge their Premier League form with their European form and put well needed points on the table. United have never lost the opening two matches in the Champions League and will hope to avoid the examples set by Arsenal and Chelsea last night. Unfortunately the team wanting to further our woes is the Bundesliga runner up Wolfsburg.
Last time out…
Most fans will want to erase the memory of the previous game permanently, and rightly so. Losing one of the season’s bright sparks was much more painful than losing the three points. The remainder of the match was more of an aftershock and an unfair representation of what United can bring to Europe this season, unlike their British counterparts this season.
Tactics: Pass the ball to Martial.
Unbelievably since he has arrived at United his career has somewhat fast-tracked him into the spotlight. He may have received that anyway with a hefty price tag, but at least he seems to be justifying it SO FAR. His willingness to run out in to wide spaces and his strength on the ball must be a nightmare to defenders, especially to the non regulars that will start for Wolfsburg on wednesday night. Central defenders are being attracted out wide to deal with him and this is creating spaces for other players, something we were not seeing enough of at the beginning of the season and last season. Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney need runners to be able to pull strings in the final third of the pitch. Now it looks like United can pass the ball forty times and actually score at the end of it, but they look like they can also do it with three passes. The pace on show at the front of the line will serve to make this possible and for this reason I hope we see James Wilson on the pitch soon too.
Tactics Pt 2: Man Mark “Lord” Bendtner
For purely non footballing reasons. If you have an Arsenal FC supporting friend you would completely understand my sentiments here. After last nights heroics Arsenal need a lift and what better way than for their most ‘notorious’ player to score against United at Old Trafford. Twitter would explode and I would like it if it didnt explode for this reason.
Key Players and Battles:
Schweinstiger knows this german team well and scored his first goal for Bayern against them, he controls the play so well and is rarely unavailable when a United defender has the ball. Much of our composure in the last part of games this season has stemmed from Basti’s experience and nous in seeing a game through. Juan Mata is currently on a good run of form and when wandering into central positions has created chances or scored. He must be one of the first names on the teamsheet. Martial is a key player in tonight’s fixture. I don’t think that Dante has the quality to stop Martial if he plays the way he has so far this season. Julian Draxler has been one of the most admired young players in Europe in the last few seasons and Wolfsburg pulled off a stunning deal replacing him for the departed Kevin De Bruyne. He has already secured three points for Wolfsburg against CSKA Moskow with the game’s only goal. He will no doubt be a big test for Daley Blind and Chris Smalling. I do think the midfield presence of Schneiderlin and Schweinstiger will stem the supply for Draxler and help the cause here, so the onus will be on our attack to be effective and come away with goals.
United Team News
Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia are likely absentees whilst Marcus Rojo is still out from an injury attained against Southampton. Phil Jones is available to play and may well slot right back into the back four. It will be interesting to see what van Gaal does here. He may well put Jones at the right back position and keep some continuity with Daley Blind and Chris Smalling in the centre half roles. Darmian played very well in the left back role so he may retain this position. Van Gaal has tried to keep Blind in the centre back position whenever he has been available. The versatile left footer has generally played well and van Gaal has in return given him the faith of a regular starting berth at the heart of the defence. Blind’s ability to make an important pass has impressed fans wanting to see that elusive ‘ball playing central defender’, a position which trended pretty regularly this past summer.
Wolfsburg Team News
Wolfsburg have some absentees and most notably are missing their strong midfielder Luis Gustavo who has had a decent season so far. They will also be without Vieirinha and central defenders Lopes and Robin Knoche.
United to win 2-0. Wolfsburg are no pushovers but are also not what they were last season with only three wins from seven in the Bundesliga. If United’s attack show the kind of patience and pace they have displayed in the last few games they have every chance of a comfortable win. The crowd will also be fired up for this match and it will only diffuse through the team