Despite Adam Lallana’s late goal denying Manchester United three points against bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday, there were many positives to take away from the game for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United played with a really high intensity for large parts of the league encounter, with both Marcus Rashford and Daniel James causing the Liverpool back line problems on the counterattack with their electrifying pace. Alongside this, United restricted Liverpool to only a few chances, with the Reds ultimately grateful to be leaving Old Trafford with their unbeaten start still intact.
In the wider context of things though, United are still in disarray, and return to Europa League action on Thursday night in need of a win. However, a 3034-mile round trip to the Serbian capital of Belgrade to face current Group L leaders Partizan could pose a real challenge for Solskjaer’s side, who have so far picked up four points from their opening two group games.
United will be without a host of players and are also expected to rest individuals ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Norwich City. Defenders Diego Dalot and Axel Tuanzebe will both certainly miss out, while Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic and Jess Lingard are all doubtful.
However, Solskjaer could give minutes to youngsters Angel Gomes, James Garner, Brandon Williams, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood as all five were left out of the Under-23s team that faced Swansea City on Monday.
With all this in mind, here is how Manchester United could line up against Partizan, with Solskjaer, who played a 4-2-3-1 formation in the first two Europa League games, expected to go with that system again on Thursday.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Sergio Romero (GK) – Man Utd have arguably the best second-choice goalkeeper in the Premier League in Argentina international Romero. The 32-year-old has kept 28 clean sheets for United in 46 appearances and started United’s first group game of the competition against Astana, keeping a clean sheet.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB) – Wan-Bissaka returned from injury to face Liverpool on Sunday and should start again on Thursday to continue to build up his match sharpness. His return to the side is a real boost for United with the defender impressing since his arrival from Crystal Palace in the summer.
Phil Jones (CB) – It is expected Harry Maguire will be rested on Thursday meaning Phil Jones, who started against Rochdale in the Carabao Cup and against FC Astana, could get a rare opportunity at centre-back after falling down the pecking order this campaign.
Marcos Rojo (CB) – Alongside Jones, defender Rojo – who is in his sixth year with the club - is set to start. United have yet to concede in the Europa League which is largely thanks to the 29-year-old, with the defender appearing in both of their first two group games.
Brandon Williams (LB) – Youngster Williams made his debut for the club in last month’s Carabao Cup clash against Rochdale before he started against AZ Alkmaar the following week and impressed in both. With Luke Shaw absent, Williams is in line to gain more experience against Partizan.
Scott McTominay (CM) – Scottish international McTominay has been a regular in the side this season and has been one of the club’s standout players so far this term. The midfielder breaks up play effectively and has the ability to put United on the front foot.
Fred (CM) – The Brazilian has been pretty poor since arriving in 2018 from Shakhtar Donetsk, but with Pogba and Matic both out, he looks likely to start again with many believing Solskjaer is not willing to trust Garner just yet.
Juan Mata (CAM) – The experienced Spaniard has featured in both Europa League games this term and could be favoured ahead of Tahith Chong in the three behind the striker purely due to his experience and that little bit of quality he still possesses, especially from set plays.
Angel Gomes (RW) – The 19-year-old youth product has shown signs of real promise whenever he has pulled on the United shirt this season, gaining valuable first team experience through the Europa League. Gifted with great agility and technical ability, a first senior goal for United is now the next target.
Mason Greenwood (ST) – There is a lot of hype around Greenwood, with many thinking the 18-year-old has the potential to be one of the best strikers in Europe in the coming years due to his excellent finishing ability and his physique. He has already scored for United against both Astana and Rochdale, and he will be hoping to add to this on Thursday.
Antony Martial (LW) – United have really missed Martial’s goals and composure in the final third in recent weeks as they have slipped down to 14th in the Premier League table. The Frenchman, who has scored 36 Premier League goals for the club in 117 appearances, did come off the bench against Liverpool and should get minutes against Partizan to increase his fitness.