Manchester United have not been easy to predict this season, both in Europe and the Premier League, but they should have no problems when French side Saint Etienne come to Old Trafford on Thursday.
After struggling to find the net in recent weeks, United seem to have found their touch in front of goal again, despatching both Leicester and Watford with minimal fuss in their last two games. Scoring four times against both Fenerbahce and Feyenoord, two more threatening sides on paper than Saint Etienne, in the group phase sets them up nicely for this encounter.
The rebirth of Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been key to the Red Devils’ resurgence, with the Armenian able to dribble and pass to equal effectiveness as well as score a goal or two. Jose Mourinho has always had a lot of talent at his disposal, but he has found the formula to make everything tick now. Whether he goes for his full strength side in this game is up for debate and he could afford two players currently struggling to recapture previous form, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, a chance to prove themselves.
England youngster Rashford has not scored for 16 games, while Martial has been linked heavily with an exit. Both have pace to burn and phenomenal finishing ability when confident and would look to stretch the visiting defence, either by running in behind or pulling out wide. Paul Pogba could start against his brother Florentin, but again Mourinho may choose to rest his record signing in favour of Bastien Schweinsteiger, who has returned to the fold after being ostracised.
The German would control the tempo of the game with his experience, nullifying the opportunities for Saint Etienne to get out of their own half and attempt to search for an away goal. Michael Carrick is another option who can perform the same service.
Both Manchester United and Jose Mourinho’s attitude towards the Europa League have been questioned, but they are likely to want this tie over as quickly as possible. They’ve proven they have the firepower, so expect a quick start and a dominant display from the hosts.
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