Manchester United’s Europa League adventure begins against La Liga leaders Real Sociedad.

Sociedad will be a difficult team to face, but United should not go all out with a first XI. There is an important balance to strike.

United need to approach the competition aiming to win, while also looking to learn about key squad players and allowing them to rise to the challenge.

If it still looks like United are in with a decent shout in the Premier League, there will be extra need for rotation.

Playing a strong team and losing will teach us nothing. United need to be positive, rotate a little, learn about fringe players and try to win.

United can still rotate and field a strong team. If we are eliminated early on, it could turn into a blessing in disguise.

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Henderson’s chance

Dean Henderson has not yet won the number one job full time in the Premier League. So he may need some convincing to stay in January.

United should say to Henderson he is the ‘Europa League goalkeeper’ from now until the final if he can help get us there.

This will give him extra reason to stay, with the chance to play in his first ever European knockout ties.

Tuanzebe’s time

There is little to gain from playing Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof as a partnership.

United need to learn more about Axel Tuanzebe, and give him the opportunity to start in both games.

Solskjaer could go a step further, and play Eric Bailly alongside him for both matches.

With United considering signing a new centre-back, the current back-ups need their chances to show what they are capable of too.

 

Fosu-Mensah referendum

Aaron Wan-Bissaka needs a break now, and certainly will do by February.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah is taking up a place in the squad without any clarity whether he is good enough long-term or even short-term.

United should put him in, and see if he performs. If he can’t, then it is time to buy a new right-back next summer.

An alternative is to promote Ethan Laird if he can show by February he is ready to step up, but it may be more useful to try and resolve the Fosu-Mensah situation once and for all.

RB Leipzig v Manchester United: Group H - UEFA Champions League
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Work on Fred and Van de Beek partnership

Can Fred and Donny van de Beek play together in midfield? We saw at home to Istanbul Basaksehir in a 4-1 win that the answer is yes.

It was not perfect, they left gaps at times, but there was enough there to be encouraged about.

United need to explore this partnership more, and this means playing the pair together in high-pressure games to see how they handle it, and how they learn from any mistakes they make. It can only help them in the future.

Let Dan James have a go

Dan James did not start a single Champions League game. He did score one goal from the bench.

Did United under use him? Only James can answer that, and he can only do so if he is given the opportunity to play.

The Welshman should be given the chance to start these games and try to prove himself.

Morecambe v Manchester United U21 - EFL Trophy
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Can Cavani help Pellistri?

Hopefully by February, Facundo Pellistri will continue to build a case for first team involvement.

Rather than play him alongside an inexperienced forward like Mason Greenwood, United should start Edinson Cavani up with him.

Getting the chance to play alongside his fellow Uruguayan could inspire Pellistri and help him out.

United will be putting Pellistri in the best possible position to succeed by allowing him to start alongside Cavani.

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