With nightmares of their Anfield mauling still fresh in the memory, Manchester United return to Europa League action with the visit of Real Betis to Old Trafford for the first leg of their last-16 tie on Thursday night.
The Red Devils progressed past Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate in the knockout round playoffs, while Manuel Pellegrini’s crop beat Roma, HJK Helsinki and Ludogorets to top spot in Group C.
With a 14-point gap to make up to leaders Arsenal – who have played a game more – some have already eliminated third-placed Man United from the Premier League title race, but their podium spot is safe for the time being as they seek an immediate response in continental action.
A second-placed finish to Real Sociedad in the group stage forced Man United to do it the hard way, but a richly-deserved 2-1 second-leg win over Barcelona propelled the Red Devils into the last 16 at the Catalans’ expense, and not since March 2012 have the hosts lost the first leg of a European knockout tie at home.
Prior to being destroyed by Liverpool, Man United had scored at least twice in 12 successive games in all competitions – their multiple-goal run at Old Trafford stands at an even better 14 games – and Ten Hag’s side can get straight back into the fans’ good books with a 20th unbeaten match in a row at the Theatre of Dreams here
Still coping without long-term absentees Donny van de Beek and Christian Eriksen, Man United have now been handed a fresh concern over Casemiro, who was noticeably off his game at Anfield and reportedly picked up an injury in the process.
The Brazilian will be assessed ahead of kickoff alongside Victor Lindelof, who missed Sunday’s defeat with a minor unspecified problem, while Ten Hag is refusing to put a timeframe on Anthony Martial’s recovery as he battles a hip problem.
A refresh should certainly be in order after such a humbling evening against Liverpool, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia potentially coming into the backline, especially with Luke Shaw and Raphael Varane emerging as doubts before kickoff at the weekend.
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Martinez, Malacia; Sabitzer, McTominay; Sancho, Fernandes, Garnacho; Rashford