Manchester United will face AFC Ajax in the finals of the UEFA Europa League 2016/17 on Wednesday at the Friends Arena, Stockholm.
Jose Mourinho’s men finished in the sixth place in the Premier League and the only way through to the next season’s Champions League for them is by winning the Europa League. And the fact that it is the only major trophy missing from their cabinet will act as an added incentive for United. They made it to the showpiece event after beating Spanish outfit Celta Vigo in the semi-finals over two legs and will be raring to finish the season with another trophy, having already won the FA Community Shield and the EFL Cup.
The biggest blow for United is that their best defender Eric Bailly is suspended for the game, after he was sent off in the second leg of the semi-finals against Celta. Chris Smalling is carrying a niggle which led to him sitting out against Crystal Palace over the weekend, but is expected to be fit for the game. Marouane Fellaini too missed out on the weekend due to an ankle injury, but is expected to return. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young and Luke Shaw are ruled out for the season.
A horde of changes are expected from the team that took the field against Palace at the Old Trafford on Sunday. Here’s how United will line up for the blockbuster clash:
Probable Manchester United Starting XI
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Sergio Romero (GK)
Jose has confirmed a couple of weeks back itself that it will be Romero that will play in the finals ahead of David De Gea. The Argentine has done well each time he has been called upon and a strong performance will be needed from him.
Antonio Valencia (RB)
The senior statesman in the team was given a rest on Sunday in view of the finals. Expect him to return to the setup in Stockholm and captain the team.
Phil Jones (CB)
The Englishman has started the last three games for United and has looked good. With Bailly suspended, he should start ahead of Smalling.
Daley Blind (CB)
The utility man has been rested since the 2-1 loss to Tottenham. He is set for a start at centre-back against his former club.
Matteo Darmian (LB)
Not a natural left-back, the Italian is the only fit option other than Blind who can take up that role. Having played both the semi-final legs, he is likely to get the nod for the finals.
Marouane Fellaini (CM)
Sat out of the weekend fixture due to an ankle injury, but is expected to be ready and will walk straight into the starting XI.
Ander Herrera (CM)
Another sure starter, Herrera has become a key member of the team under Mourinho. He will sit the deepest of the three midfielders.
Paul Pogba (CM)
The Frenchman was at his belligerent best on Sunday against Palace and was withdrawn after 45 minutes to save him for the finals. Will complete the midfield trio.
Jesse Lingard (RW)
Another player who was whisked off after 45 minutes over the weekend, that should be an indication that Mourinho is looking to play him from the start in the finals meaning Anthony Martial will miss out.
Marcus Rashford (ST)
Has taken up the goal-scoring burden since the injury to Ibrahimovic. Mourinho has rarely used him after the second leg of the semi-finals to safeguard him for Stockholm.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (LW)
The Armenian was another who played no part on Sunday. He has scored 5 goals in 10 games in Europe this season and Mourinho will be hoping he hits top gear on Wednesday.