The start of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League season could not have come at a better time for Manchester United.
The Red Devils have clinched two wins on the bounce, and have left their two-game losing skid in the rear view. Following a solid 2-1 away win over Watford last week, now The Red Devils will travel to Bern to take on BSC Young Boys in their Champions League opener. It might be an easy game on paper. However, United have a history of complicating themselves against Swiss teams in recent years. And it would be a mistake to take them for granted, because let’s face it: there has been to be a reason why they found their way into the Group Stage, right?
This game is scheduled for Wednesday at 20:00 hrs BST time. Deniz Aytekin will be the referee.
As weeks advance, Manchester United are getting more and more healthier. Mourinho already confirmed that Luke Shaw will get the start at left-back, and Marcus Rashford could also be available given his suspension only affects domestic matches. Knowing that players such as Ander Herrera and Alexis Sanchez are at 100%, the only potential absences would be Phil Jones (hamstring), Marcos Rojo (knock) and Diogo Valot (lack of match fitness). Marouane Fellaini is doubtful, but has a chance to be part of the squad as long as he passes a late-fitness test. Sergio Romero won’t play either.
As for Young Boys, the Bern-based side will be considerably more depleted ahead of this contest. Sandro Lauper (muscular injury), Jordan Mvula Lotomba (knee) and Pedro Teixeira (undisclosed) have been ruled out, although the latter two are yet to see action during the current campaign so their absences shouldn’t be much of a factor. Meanwhile, Kevin Mbabu and Gregory Wuthrich (both undisclosed) are doubtful. Their potential absences – especially the one of Swiss international Mbabu – could hurt the side defensively. Former Serbia winger Miralem Sulejmani, who has previous European experience with Ajax and Benfica, could make his first start since suffering a concussion.
Following a solid, yet unspectacular 2-0 win at Burnley before the international break, The Red Devils topped Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road, and now have three wins and two defeats in their first five Premier League matches. That is far from ideal, but all signs indicate Jose Mourinho’s men are on the rise right now. Can they confirm it against a Swiss side that has absolutely nothing to lose heading into this game?
On the other hand, Young Boys are the reigning Swiss Super League title holders and have started the 2018/19 campaign on top form. Young Boys have won nine of their first 10 games in all competitions, and already lead the Swiss league with an eight-point gap over the second-placed team. Plus, they have also won their first six league contests. Can they translate that form onto the European scene?
Are there any prior meetings between these two sides in European competitions?
This will be the first all-time meeting between these two sides in European competitions. However, Manchester United do have a decent amount of history against Swiss sides in the past.
Taking into account every single match in European stages, The Red Devils own a W2, D2, L2 mark against Swiss sides… although to be fair, all of those games have been against FC Basel. Over that span, United have scored 11 goals while conceding eight.
What do the players say?
Ander Herrera spoke with Manchester United’s official website and praised Young Boys, saying “they are a team that has nothing to lose, they are playing against three big teams. They are probably a very young team like Basel last season with all the desire and expectations to do good, so that will make them difficult because they have nothing to lose. If I’m not wrong, I think their pitch is artificial so we will have to adapt in the first game which is away to them.”
At least on paper, Manchester United look like the stronger side based on their bigger European experience. Young Boys are on a torrid run of form, but no one knows whether they can translate that domestic form onto the European scene. All things considered, I would expect United to take home the three points.