ALKMAAR, NETHERLANDS – OCTOBER 03: Nemanja Matic of Manchester United battles for possession with Fredrik Midtsjo of AZ Alkmaar during the UEFA Europa League group L match between AZ Alkmaar and Manchester United at AFAS-Stadium on October 03, 2019 in Alkmaar, Netherlands. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
United go into Thursday night’s encounter with Partizan knowing that a win will guarantee qualification to the next round of the Europa League. Whilst they may have faltered against Bournemouth at the weekend, after three away wins in a row, The Red Devils sit pretty at the top of Group L, with two wins and a draw from their opening three games.
Partizan will enter the game buoyed by their 4-0 victory over Vojvodina in the Super Liga last Saturday, and currently sit 4th in their respective division. Add that to the fact that only an Anthony Martial penalty separated the sides on Matchday 3, and the Serbian side should certainly be full of confidence entering Old Trafford.
Conversely, United will look to return to winning ways on the back of their slip-up against The Cherries. After controlling the game for the first 15/20 minutes, a Joshua King sucker punch right on the stroke of half-time meant that United left the Vitality Stadium empty-handed. It was a huge blow for Solskjaer, who had to have thought his side had finally turned a corner after a hugely underwhelming start to the campaign. Ensuring early qualification to the next round of Europe’s second-tier competition might just provide the antidote to get United back on track.
Key Players To Keep An Eye On
Mason Greenwood – Surely a shoo-in to be in the starting lineup against Partizan, Greenwood will look to stake a claim for more regular first team football under Solskjaer. A brilliant solo effort for the U21 side against Doncaster, to put them through to the next round of the EFL Trophy, was followed by a ten minute cameo versus Bournemouth, in which the 18-year-old almost earned United a point, hitting the post in the dying embers of the game. A strong showing on Thursday night could give Solskjaer a selection headache going into the game against Brighton at the weekend. It could be a long night for Partizan’s back-line.
Scott McTominay – United’s current injury crisis, coupled with a lack of options in midfield, mean that the 22-year-old Scot will probably take his place among the starting 11 once again. McTominay has been a colossus in the middle of the park this term, filling the Ander Herrera shaped hole with his defensive duties, whilst also chipping in on the goal front. As much as every United fan would rather have Paul Pogba fit and in the side, his absence has been somewhat of a blessing in disguise for McTominay, who has been one of the shining lights in an otherwise dark period in United’s history. Expect him to have a real impact once again against the Serbian outfit.
Umar Sadiq – The 6’4 Nigerian forward seems to have finally gotten his career going, this being his SIXTH move away from his parent club Roma. After an ill-fated loan spell at Scottish outfit Rangers last term, in which he made only four appearances before being sent packing by the end of the year, few could have predicted that he would pose the biggest threat to United’s defence going into a major European tie. 7 goals in 12 in the Super Liga, and 2 in 3 in Europe thus far, Sadiq’s stature and physicality could certainly ask questions of a United side that has shown its vulnerabilities at times this term, particularly in the air. Whether it’s Maguire, Lindelof, or Jones that has the daunting task of keeping the frontman quiet, expect Sadiq to be the focal point of Partizan’s attack.
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