Sport Manchester United

Friday 19 January 2018

Europa League final: Juan Mata starts, Phil Jones dropped for Manchester United

Juan Mata starts for Manchester United
Juan Mata starts for Manchester United

Luke Brown

Jose Mourinho has selected Chris Smalling instead of Phil Jones in his Manchester United starting eleven to face Ajax in the final of the Europa League.

He has also selected Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the Stockholm final.

In total he has made ten changes from the side that beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at Old Trafford this weekend, with Paul Pogba the sole survivor.

As expected Sergio Romero has been selected instead of David de Gea, who starts on the bench.

But it is arguably in defence that Mourinho has sprung his biggest surprise. Jones has been dropped with Smalling – who was poor in United’s recent Premier League games against Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace – selected instead of him.

He’s partnered in the middle of United’s defence by Daley Blind, with Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian selected at full-back.

The other surprise inclusion is Juan Mata, who is selected instead of Jesse Lingard. The English forward has a tendency to score in the big games but he’s been left on the bench by Mourinho, with Mata handed his tenth European performance of the season.

There is also a place in the starting line-up for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Although the former Borussia Dortmund forward has struggled in the Premier League this season he has performed well in the Europa League, scoring five times in ten appearances.

Marcus Rashford will lead the line while Mourinho’s three-man midfield will consist of Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and world-record summer arrival Paul Pogba.

The match kicks off at 7.45pm this evening, with the winning team guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League group stage.

Manchester United (4-3-3): Sergio Romero; Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian; Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini; Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

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