Top spot in Europa League group will be crucial

Manchester United meet the second place dutch side AZ Alkmaar tonight in the last fixture of the group phase of Europa League and if United avoid defeat will top the group to get an easier route to progress further in this competition which might be their best bet to secure qualification for next year's Champions' League by winning it just like in 2017.

AZ Alkmaar are without top scorer the youngster Myron Boadu aged 18 years having scored 11 goals this season who recently debuted for Netherlands on 19-November and scored in the 5-0 rout of Estonia. AZ face Ajax Amsterdam this weekend in their own stadium after the roof collapse in late August due to strong winds, in the top of the table clash of Eredivisie separated by just 3 points. Arne Slot has managed an excellent season so far after being promoted from being assistant to John van den Brom currently in a 6 game winning streak having conceded only 8 goals all season the best defensive team in Eredivisie. This certainly won't be an easy game. The reverse fixture earlier drew flak for United not creating a single chance in that game which ended in a 0-0 draw played on artificial pitch.

Ex AZ goal keeper and present United number two Sergio Romero who was signed for both clubs by legendary Louis van Gaal, spoke perfectly "here within this club both the staff and players are like one big family and we have a goal every time we go the field to try and win trophies, to keep our fans happy." LVG created history by winning the Eredivisie with unlikely team in AZ in 2008-09 when the players urged him to stay on despite finishing a disappointing 11th in the previous season. At United, LVG unleashed Rashford after an injury crisis to the strikers and like Ole was promoting youth in a structured manner. Not backing him in the January transfer window of his last year did not help to turn around the season and the club must not repeat that mistake with Ole now.

Buoyed by victories over much fancied Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, United must maintain the momentum by keeping the intensity of the pressing game despite changing the starting XI. Consistency that's been the biggest lacuna of MUFC which can be addressed if the spine of the team remains same and changes are done to players around them i.e., Maguire, Lindelof, Fred, McTominay, Martial play. Instead Greenwood, Gomes, Chong, Garner, Williams, Laird, Tuanzebe, Romero look set to start ahead of Martial, Lingard, James, McTominay, Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, De Gea. Matic might be on the bench who had captained the side in the reverse fixture.

If United top the group they could still face AS Roma where Chris Smalling has been having a very good spell and many clubs are reportedly eyeing his signature in January. Most fans would like him to be the fourth choice centre-back instead of Phil Jones but Chris perhaps has served the club well to earn the chance to explore a different league. And if United lose they could face Inter where Lukaku is excelling. He was harshly treated by fans especially from online video fan casts for his first touch despite scoring 42 goals in two seasons that would merit a serious appreciation. Was still 25 when Zlatan moved on due to injury and that's still very young to don the mantle of senior marksman when his skills could have been further developed. Europa League round of 32 draw takes place on 16-December.

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