October 26, 2020
Manchester United return to action in the UEFA Champions League as they welcome RB Leipzig to Old Trafford for the first time in the history of European competition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be seeking to get back to winning ways after that dire 0-0 draw against Chelsea at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday evening. The victory over Paris Saint-Germain will boost United’s confidence in the competition as they come against the German side that has not been beaten so far this season, only dropping points to Bayern Leverkusen in the Bundesliga. Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann will be seeking a good result in Manchester.
Solskjaer will once against have the services one Anthony Martial for this match with him being suspended domestically for his red card against Tottenham Hotspur, of which he will sit out one more match; the Premier League clash with Arsenal at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday. United rested both Axel Tuanzebe, who played well in his first match after a ten-month injury layoff and summer signings Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles against Chelsea with the trio being fit to face Leipzig. Harry Maguire returned from injury which kept him out against PSG and Edinson Cavani made his United debut, from the bench and almost scoring.
United will be seeking an early qualification from their group with all six group stage matches being played in just eight weeks, with one match each week, then the last international break of 2020 taking a two-week period after three matches have been played, with the following three coming in the weeks after. A win against Leipzig and two wins over Istanbul Basaksehir could see United through with two matches left to play. A defeat or a draw could prolong United group stages into the final two matches, dependant on what happens in the other matches to be played in the group. Solskjaer will be hoping that his toughly United side can prevail.
How United have faired against German teams in the European Champions Clubs’ Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
United and Leipzig have not yet met competitively in Europe but United have played German opposition many times in European competition. The first German team played was Borussia Dortmund in 1956 followed by FK Vorwärts Berlin in 1965 with Dortmund again in 1997 followed by FC Bayern München in 1998 and 1999 in what was a good season for United. The Red Devils have also faced Bayer 04 Leverkusen, VfB Stuttgart, VfL Wolfsburg and FC Schalke 04. United have played 31 matches against German clubs, winning 15, drawing eight and losing eight. United have scored 55 goals, conceding 36 against German clubs.
United have faced Bayern München the most when playing against German clubs with eleven matches being played against the club with United winning twice, drawing five times and being defeated four times. One of the wins was in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final, a 2-1 victory in Barcelona. The last German team to face United in the competition was Wolfsburg in the group stages of the competition five years ago, winning once and losing once. Leipzig have faced Tottenham Hotspur in the round of 16 in the Champions League last season, their only English opposition, winning 4-0 on aggregate; 1-0 in London and 3-0 in Leipzig.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The Spanish goalkeeper’s form has grown this season and he seems to have rebuilt his confidence and is slowly returning to that goalkeeper that we all know he is, which is great news. United could do with De Gea having a long spell of good form, which will build his confidence up even more and bring out the best of United’s defence. The fact that Dean Henderson is pushing to get a chance is a good thing too as it will bring out the best in both goalkeepers, which will benefit United from one competition to the next. As yet, Henderson has only played in the Carabao Cup but he will get his chance in other competitions at some point.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles
The defence has improved since that 1-6 defeat to Spurs earlier in the month which is a great sign. United kept their first clean sheet in the Premier League the season against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Saturday which was also the first 0-0 draw of the season. The result was perhaps a bit of a let down but it keeps United’s record against Chelsea in good stead. Axel Tuanzebe should be starting this match, despite playing 90 minutes once after a ten-month absence, he should be ready. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles should start in the fullback roles with Harry Maguire starting his first match in the Champions League for United.
Midfield Three: Donny van de Beek, Fred, Paul Pogba
The midfield is an area where United perhaps have a lot of depth and strength but it is also an area that seems to be heavily criticised by the media and the so-called supporters of the club who only seem to know how to moan and have higher standards because of their lack of knowledge of most things football. Donny van de Beek has not been playing a lot of football this season, perhaps working on something in the background – strength maybe, so could be called into action in this match. Fred and Paul Pogba could both start with United playing a midfield diamond, which would be a positive formation against the Bundesliga club.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes has been a great signing for United and alongside Marcus Rashford, is the clubs highest goalscorer this season with four goals a piece. The Portuguese midfielder did not look happy with the match on Saturday which will have been working overtime in his mind, inspiring him to lead from the front and help United get a much better result at Old Trafford against Leipzig, a team that United have not yet played competitively in European competition. Fernandes has the ability to be unplayable on his day and he has the strengths and abilities to make things happen for United, which shows how much of a great signing he was for the club.
Forwards: Marcus Rashford, AnthonyMartial
Anthony Martial will be eligible to face Leipzig at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening after sitting out a domestic suspension following his red card against Spurs. Whilst many will be suggesting that Edinson Cavani should start alongside him in a forward two, I think it will be Marcus Rashford that will be starting as he seems to be the player in form so far this season with Martial not yet scoring his first goal for the club, aside of that own goal in Paris last week. Cavani seemed in good form at the weekend but may lack that match fitness to start, which might well be something I am wrong about. Bringing him on late in the match could work.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Daniel James, Facundo Pellistri, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay; Edinson Cavani, Odion Ighalo
United will have up to five substitutes in the Champions League this season, compared to the three they can use in domestic matches. This could work well with players becoming much fresher as the season grows on. In goal, Dean Henderson will take his spot, waiting for his first chance in the Champions League. Defensively, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw could be there should they be required. In midfield, perhaps the strongest area in the squad, Juan Mata, Daniel James, Facundo Pellistri, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay could well be needed in the match. In attack, Edinson Cavani and Odion Ighalo could well offer something late in the match.
Written by John Walker