It’s nigh on impossible to predict who will play for United in tomorrow’s fixture against Bilbao. Will Ferguson really go for it and select a team who’ll go and chase the game or will he rest Rooney and co. in an attempt to keep them fit and fresh for the assault on the league?
De Gea has travelled back to his homeland and looks likely to start and attempt to repeat his heroics from the first leg where, let’s face it, if it wasn’t for him we’d stand even less of a chance of progress than we do at the moment!
In defence Evans should partner Ferdinand at the back although Smalling may be given the opportunity for a run out. Vidic, obviously, is still out injured and Phil Jones didn’t travel with the squad. Evra is favourite to start at left back and retain his captaincy although both da Silva twins travel and could feature on either flank.
The midfield is going to be shorn of Nani but boosted by the return of Antonio Valencia. Giggs is fit and ready to break records and will likely partner Carrick or Cleverley in midfield. Scholes, whilst fit, started against West Brom so may be rested as Ferguson keeps him ready for the league. Paul Pogba appears to have signed a new contract or, at least, appears on the brink of doing so and may get some game time too – probably from the bench though.
Up front will likely see Rooney partner one of Hernandez or Welbeck. Berbatov is likely to be left skulking on the sidelines again making us all love him a little more.
United: (from) De Gea, Amos, Rafael, Fabio, Evra, Smalling, Evans, Ferdinand, Carrick, Scholes, Cleverley, Giggs, Park, Pogba, Valencia, Young, Rooney, Welbeck, Hernandez, Berbatov
Ryan Giggs, if selected, will break Paolo Maldini’s appearance for one club record of 902.
Giggs could also score his thirtieth goal in European competition as could Wayne Rooney.
United’s record in 42 games against Spanish opponents reads W11 D17 L14 (W8 D9 L3 at Old Trafford – W2 D8 L9 in Spain). That total includes a win and two defeats against FC Barcelona in major European finals held at neutral venues.
Athletic’s 15 games against English sides ended W4 D4 L7 (W3 D3 L1 at home – W1 D1 L6 in England).
If United win the Europa League, Ferguson will be the third coach to have won all three of UEFA’s major club competitions, after Giovanni Trapattoni and Udo Lattek.
I think it’s going to be a classic case of ‘blessing in disguise’ and an opportunity to ‘focus on the league’ after tomorrow’s fixture. I can see United giving it a real go but after seeing the manner in which Bilbao approached the first leg and the quality the possess I can’t see us going through. I think I’m one of the few fans who want United to progress in this tournament but I can’t claim that I’d be crying myself to sleep if they failed to progress. What is more worrying is the manner in which they’ve found themselves in this position. Will this year prove to be the year we had to take a step back in order to take two steps forward? I’m talking as much, here, about the Premier League as United for it can’t be denied that the Spanish La Liga has really upped their game in recent years and we’re in danger of being left behind.