Much-changed United defence will need calming De Gea against Villarreal
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer offered hope that Luke Shaw could yet make the clash against Villarreal, but Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has definitely been ruled out and will join the suspended Aaron Wan-Bissaka in taking a watching brief.
That means that Solskjaer faces making three changes to his United defence with Diogo Dalot coming in for Wan-Bissaka, Alex Telles potentially replacing Shaw if he doesn’t pass a late fitness test, and Victor Lindelof replacing Maguire and partnering Raphael Varane.
The Norwegian didn’t rule out the possibility of United changing their system to play three at the back and matching up against Unai Emery’s side, who played a 3-5-2 formation against Real Madrid at the weekend.
We made the case for switching to 3-5-2 and unleashing Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo through the middle together.
That would also allow Dalot and Telles to bomb on knowing that they have sufficient cover behind them.
But one man who is going to have a crucial role in marshalling a backline that will be playing together for the first time is David de Gea.
Big night for De Gea against Villarreal
De Gea will be eager to shutout the Spanish giants and banish the memories of May’s Europa League final penalty shootout.
The Spaniard has started the season well and looks to be regaining his confidence with every passing performance.
But he will be playing behind a defence that has little margin for error in a game of massive importance.
The 30-year-old may have Varane in front of him, who has won it all, but de Gea is going to have to be vocal, commanding and a reassuring presence for his defenders.
He will have to take charge of his penalty area and talk his defenders through the game, but he cannot afford to be hesitant otherwise that will radiate panic across an already nervy backline.
The Spanish international’s renaissance has been one of the season’s success stories so far, but United’s number one needs to stand up and lead from the back in what is our biggest game of the season so far.