Erik ten Hag&aposs side kick off their European campaign with the toughest game of their group and do so having lost three of their last four Premier League games. On Saturday, they were well beaten by Brighton and the feeling around Old Trafford was grim.
Ten Hag cannot be entirely without blame for yet another poor start to the season. He opted for a narrow midfield diamond on Saturday and Brighton ran riot out wide, while in previous games his hesitation to make substitutions has seen games run away from United.
But in the two games either side of the international break in particular, the Dutchman has been hamstrung by an ever-growing absentee list. Antony and Jadon Sancho are both unavailable due to off-field issues, while Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia, Raphael Varane, Mason Mount, Sofyan Amrabat, Kobbie Mainoo and Amad Diallo are all injured – Aaron Wan-Bissaka missed Saturday&aposs game through illness.
Speaking after Saturday&aposs defeat, the Reds boss suggested one of the above could return in tame to face Bayern on Wednesday evening. “Maybe, maybe one player,” he said. “But I think Munich is a little bit too short. I go to Burnley and the week after, players will return. Bayern Munich is one of the favourites to win the Champions League, so we have to be good there and I already explained we need character, belief, resilience, determination, absolutely.”
If Ten Hag is to only welcome back one player for Wednesday&aposs trip, then he could do with it being Amrabat. Midfield continues to be an issue for the Dutchman, so much so that he had to start Scott McTominay – a player who was up for sale over the summer – against Brighton.
The decision to play a diamond did little to ease the issue, but United lacked solidity in midfield even with four players in that area of the pitch. For all Mount is energetic and can press, he also lacks the skillset to plug that gap.
Bayern will be hoping for an equally placid midfield on Wednesday, with the likes of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka able to dominate that area and Thomas Muller dropping deep to create. Thomas Tuchel will have everything crossed that they can exploit the same problems.
Ten Hag, meanwhile, will be doing all he can to get Amrabat fit. The Morocco international would be able to add a steeliness to United&aposs midfield, the kind that teams need when travelling to Bayern in the Champions League.
Manchester United are back in the Champions League after an impressive first season in charge for Erik ten Hag.
Having won the famous trophy three times, the Reds have a wonderful history in the European Cup. Now the Dutchman has to live up to that legacy.
Our special preview of Uniteds 2023/24 Champions League campaign provides the ultimate guide to the tournament.