Before this summer, a prolonged Manchester United Champions League run would have looked out of the picture.
For once, Manchester United supporters can dream – if they dare – of a fourth success in the competition.
Manchester United Champions League Credentials Look Strong
Major Improvement of Squad Over the Years
Manchester United were last successful in the competition in 2008, under Sir Alex Ferguson, his second success in Europe’s elite competition.
Whilst it’s easier to belittle current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his lack of silverware to date, he has never had greater tools at his disposal.
United have long lacked a credible centre-back partnership and believe they have found that now with the world-class addition of Raphael Varane, partnering captain Harry Maguire. Luke Shaw has been in the form of his life at left-back over the past year too. Aaron Wan-Bissaka occasionally has his flaws but is still a decent player for United and could yet improve at just 23-years-old.
Most impressively, Manchester United have amassed a collection of leaders within the squad. Something they’ve lacked during the post-Sir Alex Ferguson period. If not Maguire then Varane, if not Bruno Fernandes leading by example then Cristiano Ronaldo. The experience of David de Gea and Edinson Cavani make them viable options for leadership roles within the team too.
Manchester United’s greatest asset in 2021/22 could well be the quality of player and leadership skills combined in those mentioned.
With the Champions League, though, it’s important to be realistic. The competition can almost be described as a lottery at times and relies on luck, and quality too, of course. But almost everything has to go right. It’s a huge ask but one that Manchester United should relish being a player in, having suffered many a year, often dropping into the Europa League – or worse not even qualifying in the first place.
Manchester United Champions League Opener v Young Boys in Bern
Manchester United begin their campaign with a trip to Bern, Switzerland. The Red Devils are not strangers to this trip having faced Young Boys in the same competition in 2018. Paul Pogba scored a brace in Switzerland that September night, with Anthony Martial securing a 3-0 victory.
The two meetings in 2018 – United won the home leg 1-0 – are the only meetings between the two sides in history.
Young Boys are currently fourth in the Swiss Super League, having won two, drawn two and lost one of their five games so far. They head into this game, much like United after their 4-1 win over Newcastle United at the weekend, in fine tune having beaten FC Zurich 4-0 on Saturday.
The Swiss side are currently managed by former Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner, with former Ajax forward Miralem Sulejmani a familiar name on the playing staff.
Manchester United have plenty of options to go into this game with but it is assumed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will remain strong.
The Red Devils have already announced their travelling squad: David De Gea, Tom Heaton, Matej Kovar, Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Jadon Sancho, Donny van de Beek, Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo Factor
The last name on that list, Cristiano Ronaldo, is perhaps the story of every United game for the time being, whether he scores or not. Ronaldo will don the number seven shirt for Manchester United in the Champions League for the first time since losing the final to Barcelona in 2009.
Young Boys have only faced Cristiano Ronaldo once, during his time with Juventus, also in the 2018/19 group stage, he assisted Paulo Dybala in that game – a 2-1 loss for the Italian giants. The 36-year-old of freak ability will no doubt be looking to add Young Boys to the long list of clubs he’s scored against.
After one game, Cristiano Ronaldo is already talking about how Manchester United win the Premier League and the Champions League 👀 pic.twitter.com/3o6alu0tVm
— Goal (@goal) September 11, 2021
Either way, as usual, his eyes are already on the prize.
Manchester United to Start Champions League Campaign With a Win
The Red Devils can use their quality to secure a comfortable win in the Swiss capital. Continuing his good start to the season, goalkeeper David de Gea can keep a deserved clean sheet behind his reliable back four.
Prediction: Young Boys 0-3 Manchester United
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