Manchester United team v Liverpool: Midfield trio in line to return
PREVIEW By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
The target for Manchester United is clear: they must score at least two goals to overcome Liverpool and progress to the Europa League quarter-finals.
Goals have been hard to come by for Louis van Gaal’s side for much of a disappointing season but the manager will have no choice other than to commit men forward and select those most likely to find the back of the net.
Marcus Rashford could be handed his seventh consecutive match in what would be a continuation of the remarkable faith shown in the 18-year-old.
Leading scorer Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard are also likely to start in Thursday’s last-16 second leg at Old Trafford, as they offer greater goal threat than the likes of Ander Herrera and Memphis Depay.
Further back, Bastian Schweinsteiger is expected to make his first start since early January after two cameo roles as a substitute following his return from a knee injury.
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The Germany World Cup winner’s big-match experience will be seen as invaluable given the occasion and the opposition.
Van Gaal is then likely to perm two of Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Herrera for the other central midfield positions.
None of the quartet has consistently shone this season, with Fellaini suffering the humiliation of being cheered by his own supporters when he was substituted during Sunday’s 1-1 FA Cup draw against West Ham.
Fellaini has a good record against Liverpool – his mediocre display at Anfield last week notwithstanding – but he might be held back in reserve as a target man in case United need a late goal or two.
In defence, the experience of Chris Smalling and Daley Blind should make them shoo-ins, and Van Gaal will assess Marcos Rojo in training before deciding whether to start him for a sixth consecutive match.
Manchester United (possible) De Gea; Varela, Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin; Lingard, Mata, Martial; Rashford.