Manchester United’s Champions League campaign kicks off against Young Boys on Tuesday evening.
United have a large, high-quality squad, and with this away fixture coming just three days after the Newcastle game, it is unlikely the same starting XI is selected.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to be careful not to rotate too much. The memory of the costly defeat last season to Istanbul Basaksehir away should ensure that does not happen.
There is one move United can make and should feel confident in doing so, and that would be to bring in Jesse Lingard to start in place of Bruno Fernandes.
Here is a further look at three reasons why United should make the move…
He’s earned it
Lingard could have left United and instead chose to stay and compete for a place. So far he has had to make do with a place on the bench.
At the weekend he came on and scored in the win over Newcastle, making the most of his brief time on the pitch. This was Lingard’s first United goal in 13 months.
Lingard has been in good form in 2021, netting twice for England earlier in the month and scoring nine times on loan at West Ham. He also impressed by scoring in pre-season.
If the decision is made to start Lingard, it will not be out of sentiment, it will be because he has earned the opportunity and deserves a bigger shot to show what he can do.
Rest Fernandes but not Ronaldo
United quite clearly have to get the balance of team selection right and not dramatically weaken the team.
Starting Lingard and resting Fernandes should work providing Cristiano Ronaldo gets the start.
Fernandes played three games during the international break compared to Ronaldo’s one, and Solskjaer admitted over-playing the attacker at times last season.
Lingard is an in-form alternative who can switch in, and Fernandes can be saved for the West Ham league fixture at the weekend, with Lingard then playing in the cup a week later.
There isn’t the same opportunity to rest Ronaldo right now even if United wanted to, with Edinson Cavani not yet fit to start.
Fernandes can also change the game as a substitute, as he showed against RB Leipzig last season at Old Trafford.
Possession football could be key
One advantage to playing Lingard in this away fixture is his superiority to Fernandes in retaining possession.
Fernandes completed 78 per cent of his passes last season compared to Lingard’s last United full United season in which he completed 87 per cent (and 83 per cent on loan at West Ham).
Usually, Fernandes’ risk-taking is worth it. This is what makes him the top player he is. But United now have a quality secondary option again with a rejuvenated Lingard.
The team’s first Champions League away game of the season may not be the moment to take risks, and keeping possession could be key. Lingard may allow United to do that better.
Manchester United’s Champions League group stages fixtures 2021
- Young Boys (A)
Tuesday September 14, 5.45pm
- Villarreal (H)
Wednesday September 29, 8pm
- Atalanta (H)
Wednesday October 20, 8pm
- Atalanta (A)
Tuesday November 2, 8pm
- Villarreal (A)
Tuesday November 23, 5.45pm
- Young Boys (H)
Wednesday December 8, 8pm
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