Manchester United will be looking to pick up their first UEFA Europa League 2022/23 win of the season when they make the long tip to Moldova to take on domestic powerhouses Sheriff Tiraspol in the Group E encounter on Thursday night at the Zimbru Stadium. The Red Devils suffered a 1-0 loss at the hands of Spanish side Real Sociedad on the opening matchday while the hosts secured a comfortable and convincing 3-0 victory over Omonia Nicosia.
After making waves in the UEFA Champions League last season with their conquest of the mighty Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, Sheriff Tiraspol will be trying to prove their Europa League nous when they face Manchester United on home soil. The Moldovan powerhouses recovered from their qualifying elimination in the elite continental tournament to see off Omonia with ease last week.
Iyayi Atiemwen, Rasheed Akanbi and Mouhamed Diop all got on the scoresheet for Sheriff to secure a dominant win and this helped Stjepan Tomas’s to jump to the top of the table in Group E of the Europa League. A positive result against Manchester United will go a long way in helping them secure progression to the knockout rounds of the competition for the second season running.
While the standings are still nascent given that we’re just one round into the Europa League this season, Sheriff’s resilience at the backline as well as their grit and determination should take centre-stage against the 20-time English champions on Thursday night. Eliminated by Portuguese giants SC Braga from the last 32 stage of the Europa League last time around, Sheriff Tiraspol will surely have bigger ambitions.
The Moldovan powerhouses prepared for this heated fixture against Manchester United in style with a 2-0 win over Milsami Orhei in the Super Liga last weekend. They are unbeaten since losing to Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League qualifiers and Sheriff have won six and drawn two of their eight matches lately.
During that time-frame, Sheriff have also managed to keep as many as seven clean sheets. They have remarkably conceded just a single goal in their last 720 minutes of football across all competitions and not even Braga could find their way through to goal on Moldovan turf in the Europa League knockout fixture back in February.
Manchester United’s previous encounter in the Europa League was gripped with off-the-pitch turmoil following news of the Queen of England’s death as well as continued speculation surrounding whether the game would go ahead as scheduled. On the pitch as well, they were haunted by an undeserving penalty that was harshly called in favour of Real Sociedad and which proved to be their undoing during the night.
The two sides made sure to pay their respects to the deceased queen when they stepped on to the hallowed Old Trafford pitch. However, it did not take long for the mood in Manchester to become foul after new signing Lisandro Martinez saw a penalty given against him for an alleged handball even though the replays clearly showed that the ball struck his leg before bouncing up on to his arm. Brais Mendez didn’t second invitations to convert from 12 yards and his spot kick got Real Sociedad’s noses ahead in the contest.
Defeat to Real Sociedad proved to be a reality check for United manager Erik ten Hag who had seen his side flying recently win four wins on the trot in the Premier League. Their trip to Sheriff will be their final contest before the players depart for their respective national sides during the international break as the Red Devils’ fixture with Leeds United has been postponed in the wake of the Queen’s death and the subsequent funeral.
The travelling Old Trafford faithful have witnessed their side score in each of their last 15 European games on the road – not since the pre-COVID days of October 2019 have they failed to do so – but Sheriff’s unwavering defence will prove a stern examination.
Sheriff Tiraspol and Manchester United have never faced each other in a competitive fixture before. The game against United will actually be the Moldovan giants’ third battle against English opposition after they endured a pair of 2-0 and 2-1 defeats to current United star Christian Eriksen’s former side Tottenham Hotspur in the 2013-14 Europa League group stage.
TIR vs MUN, UEFA Europa League 2022/23
Date: 15th September, 2022
Time: 10:15 PM IST
Venue: Zimbru Stadium, Moldova
Sheriff Tiraspol Europa League form:
Sheriff Tiraspol form (all competitions):
Manchester United Europa League form:
Manchester United form (all competitions):
Sheriff Tiraspol wins: 0
Manchester United wins: 0
Sheriff Tiraspol Team News:
Sheriff Tiraspol haven’t picked up any fresh injury issues over their last two matches. However, they are expected to miss the services of goalkeeper Dumitru Celeadnic following a positive COVID-19 test.
Tomas made a plethora of changes for the weekend’s victory over Mislami Orhei, and the midfield duo of Diop and Moussa Kyabou should both return to the first XI this week.
Atiemwen – who scored off the bench in that game – is set to lead the line at the expense of Steve Ambri, but Abou Ouattara is facing a battle to regain his spot on the right following Pernambuco’s goal in league action.
Manchester United Team News:
As far as Manchester United are concerned, their injury situation is far from simple either. Anthony Martial is dealing with an Achilles Heel issue and he has been left out of the squad to travel to Moldova. Joining him on the list of exclusions are Facundo Pellistri, Donny van de Beek, Martin Dubravka, Marcus Rashford, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams.
Luke Shaw seems to have recovered from his foot injury in time to bounce back here and be included in the squad once again. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial’s respective absences could pave the way for Cristiano Ronaldo to return to the starting XI once again, even though he severely underperformed in the previous clash with Real Sociedad.
Sheriff Tiraspol possible starting lineup:
Koval; Zohouri, Kiki, Radeljic, Kpozo; Badolo, Kyabou, Diop; Ouattara, Atiemwen, Akanbi
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia; Eriksen, McTominay; Antony, Fernandes, Sancho; Rashford
Given that Manchester United blanked in front of the goal in their opening Europa League fixture against Real Sociedad and following the absences of Martial and Rashford, Erik Ten Hag’s side is expected to struggle once again in front of a side as defensively unrelenting as Sheriff Tiraspol. However, working in United’s favour is the fact that they have been well rested in the Premier League.
Tomas’s side cannot be underestimated in the continental competition by any stretch, however, but a first-choice United backline can expect to quash the hosts’ attack, and as such, the Red Devils could end up scoring the odd goal to enter the international break on a high note.