United return to Stadion Koln on Sunday evening, for a much-awaited Europa League semi-final against Sevilla. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team will have had six days to prepare for the challenge presented by the Andalusians – who are perennial modern winners of this competition – following Monday’s extra-time victory over FC Copenhagen.
That should hopefully increase our chances of taking a fully fit group of players into the game against the Spaniards, and there were no new injury concerns mentioned by the boss following the win over the Danes. But given Solskjaer has opted to reshape his team quite significantly for each of our last three games (Leicester City, LASK, Copenhagen), who is likely to play a part in Cologne?
The Reds have been pictured putting in the hard yards ahead of Sunday’s Europa League date with Sevilla. The only players to start our last three games are Harry Maguire and Brandon Williams, and both are highly likely to retain their places for this weekend’s last-four tie. No player has made more appearances this term than the captain’s 54, while the season-curtailing injury Luke Shaw suffered during the 2-2 draw with Southampton has opened the door for Williams to promote his claims at left-back.
However, elsewhere in defence, there could be changes. Victor Lindelof has not started either of the last two matches, but began 10 of the first 11 games that followed the COVID-19-enforced pause to the season. It seems possible that the Swede has simply been given time to recuperate, and his 70th-minute introduction against Copenhagen perhaps indicates he may be poised to return to the starting XI in the semi-final.
In goal, Sergio Romero has featured in nine of our 11 Europa League games so far this season. However, the Argentinian played all of our games in both the League Cup and the FA Cup prior to the semi-final stage, at which point Solskjaer chose to introduce David De Gea. Will the boss make the same switch again on Sunday?
In midfield, Nemanja Matic has also been given some time to rest the legs. Like Lindelof, he did not feature against LASK, and was only introduced around the 70-minute mark against FCK. But he was a near ever-present during the Premier League run-in and is clearly highly valued – recently signing a new contract to keep him at the club until 2023.
Could Ole select the 32-year-old for his experience against the dangerous Spaniards? After the victory on Monday, the manager said: “Nemanja has always had this calm and influence on the team, and he came on and did really well.”
In attack, every Red will hope all three of our free-scoring forwards are fit. Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood did not score against Copenhagen, but Martial was named Man of the Match and only a remarkable performance by opposition keeper Karl-Johan Johnsson denied the Frenchman a goal. Greenwood, meanwhile, converted an excellent finish with his right foot in the first half, only for VAR to rule it inadmissible due to a retrospective offside call.
Meanwhile, Odion Ighalo will hope he has one or two big goals left in him before the campaign closes: the Nigerian has two goals in his four appearances in the competition so far, and was unfortunate not to net during his last outing against LASK. There’s also Juan Mata’s form to consider.
The man from Asturias provided two assists in the victory over the Austrians in the last 16, and then came on in extra-time, to magnificent effect, against the Danes. It all means that Ole and his staff have some nice problems to mull over ahead of our Sevilla test.
But, firstly, the Norwegian will hope that as many of his players make it through the rest of this week’s training and are available for this huge match. Keep your eye on ManUtd.com and our Official App for all the latest team news as we build up to the semi-final.