Three players who must perform vs Real Sociedad to save Man Utd careers – opinion
Manchester United kick off their Europa League campaign on Thursday as they welcome Real Sociedad to Old Trafford. La Real have made the trip to Manchester twice in the last nine years, failing to score both times.
For Erik ten Hag, the 90-minute affair is an opportunity to rotate his squad and give second chances to several players after he made key changes to the side following the opening two games of the season.
The Dutchman could very well make 11 changes to the side which breezed past Arsenal over the weekend and some will need to impress Ten Hag more than others – we take a look at three.
Ten Hag retained him as the captain over the summer and he started the first two games, with Raphael Varane seemingly being demoted to the fourth-choice in his position despite signing just over a year ago.
That didn’t last for long, however, as the Englishman was at fault for several goals against Brighton and Brentford and Varane was drafted back into the side against Liverpool. The Frenchman was partnered with Lisandro Martinez, who has arguably been the best player so far this season.
As things stand, it’s a long way back for Maguire and he will need to raise his game more than any other player if he is to regain his place in the side. Crucially, he will be targetting a place in this year’s World Cup squad.
To some people, it might have been surprising to learn that United were pursuing a deal to sign a left-back over the summer. Those who have followed Shaw for many years at United won’t be as surprised.
Shaw was spectacular all the way through the 2020/21 season and he carried that form into the subsequent European Championship, where he was England’s best player.
Upon returning to United, his form rapidly deteriorated and Ten Hag made it a priority to sign a competitor, with Tyrell Malacia joining from Feyenoord.
Malacia has surprised supporters with his tenacity, energy and determination – three qualities severely lacking in Shaw’s arsenal. Malacia has started each of the last four league games and two of them have been against teams in the traditional ‘big six’.
Much like Maguire, Shaw’s place in the England squad is up in the air and he needs to start performing.
Dropping last season’s top goalscorer was probably the biggest call Ten Hag could have made after the Brentford debacle. And that decision has been justified after four wins from as many games.
Ronaldo was not even high enough on Ten Hag’s pecking order to be the first substitution in the Liverpool win, with Antony Martial preferred.
Ronaldo will be making his Europa League debut on Thursday and although deep down, he will feel that any appearance in the tournament is a blemish on his CV, he is in desperate need of a positive performance.
He doesn’t need to score a hat-trick, he needs to show Ten Hag that he can do exactly what he’s asking of him. Make no mistake about it – an onside Ronaldo who is pulling in the direction of his teammates is an incredible asset to have.
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