February marks the return of a monumental annual occasion. No, not Valentine’s Day, but the Champions League Round of 16!
Manchester United crashed and burned at home to Sevilla to exit the competition at this stage last year, but the tides have turned since then and everyone involved with the club is brimming with confidence this time around.
On Tuesday night, there’s a substantially tougher test at hand against Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain though, where United will be aiming to go 12 matches unbeaten under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Reds have already received major boosts ahead of kick-off, with two-thirds of Thomas Tuchel’s all-star attack, as well as first-choice right-back Thomas Meunier, ruled out through injury.
Kylian Mbappe alone is enough to cause any team damage, however, and he will still be joined by the likes of legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, captain Thiago Silva and, of course, the returning Angel di Maria.
So, how will Solskjaer set out his team on what promises to be a memorable occasion at Old Trafford?
Here’s my predicted line-up.
GK: David de Gea
His job has been made slightly simpler due to the absence of Neymar and Edinson Cavani, but he may need to pull off another world-class performance to keep one of the world’s best forwards at bay. Away goals could prove crucial in this clash.
RB: Ashley Young
Solskjaer wisely rested the man who is likely to be captain on the night at Fulham, awarding Diogo Dalot with some minutes, and he’ll have to be at his best as a leader and defender for the whole 90 minutes.
CB: Eric Bailly
With PSG you think pace, pace, pace. Bailly and Lindelof looked the real deal at Leicester a week ago and I predict they’ll line-up together again here.
CB: Victor Lindelof
There’s no doubting Lindelof’s reputation has shot up over the last 12 months and is now considering to be United’s leading centre-back. He’ll play a big role if United are to get a result.
LB: Luke Shaw
Shaw could have the biggest job on the night if Mbappe starts on the right flank, if he can put in an admirable display then the fans’ respect for him will only improve. He’s been like a new signing this season.
CM: Ander Herrera
It’s predicted he’ll sign a new contract sooner rather than later and he will have fully deserved an extension if he helps United win what should be a hotly-contested midfield battle.
CM: Nemanja Matic
Something has simply clicked inside Matic under Solskjaer and has been doing his job of sitting in front of the back line very well indeed. His experience is a big plus at such a big stage in such a big competition.
RW: Jesse Lingard
One of a few key names rested at Fulham so he’ll be fully fresh for the big test against a very physical defence.
CAM: Paul Pogba
Pogba’s influence is always going to be vital on huge occasions like this and he’s been in breath-taking form under new management, highlighted by his all-around display at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
LW: Anthony Martial
The French winger’s goal at Fulham was one of the best he’s scored at United and he will give any defence problems whilst playing with the confidence he currently has.
ST: Marcus Rashford
Solskjaer’s main man. Rashford is the clear choice to start up front after Lukaku’s ineffective showing at Fulham. After winning the January Premier League Player of the Month award, he’ll want to push on and stamp his authority on another competition.
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