Manchester United will hope to bounce back to winning ways when they take on Sheriff Tiraspol at the Zimbru Stadium on Thursday.

The 2022/23 UEFA Europa League resumes this midweek with Matchday 2 of the group stage. Manchester United will be in action in the earlier time slot on Thursday as they lock horns with Sheriff Tiraspol at the Zimbru Stadium, looking to get off the mark after last week’s defeat.

Sheriff Tiraspol’s 2022/23 campaign began in July as they attempted to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. But the Moldovan outfit dropped to the UEFA Europa League qualification play-off round after Viktoria Plzen booted them out in the third round of the Champions League qualifiers.

Sheriff beat FC Pyunik on penalties to reach the Europa League group stage, where the draw put them in a daunting group consisting of Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Omonia Nicosia. But Stjepan Tomas’s men started the group stage campaign strongly, beating Omonia 3-0 to reach the top of Group E after Real Sociedad’s 1-0 win over Manchester United last week.

The defeat to Real Sociedad killed the momentum that Manchester United had built since beating Liverpool last month. The Red Devils had been on a four-match unbeaten run before the loss to La Real in their Europa League opener. And they will be desperate to get off the mark in Europe and avoid the risk of relegation to the UEFA Europa Conference League.

The match on Thursday will be the maiden instance of Sheriff Tiraspol and Manchester United locking horns with each other. And ahead of the first-ever meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Europa League encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Sheriff Tiraspol

Stjepan Tomas does not have many pressing roster issues hampering his preparations before his charges take on Manchester United at the Zimbru Stadium. On Thursday, the Sheriff Tiraspol manager will be bereft of the services of one first-team player, with goalkeeper Dumitru Celeadnic recovering from a COVID-19 infection.

Tomas will likely line Sheriff Tiraspol in a 4-3-3 formation that he usually prefers, with Maksym Koval taking his spot between the sticks. Gaby Kiki and captain Stjepan Radeljic will pair up at the heart of the Sheriff Tiraspol defence, with Armel Zohouri and Patrick Kpozo being the two full-backs.

Moussa Kyabou will be responsible for keeping a lid on Manchester United’s creative output, with Cedric Badolo and Mouhamed Diop providing him defensive support. But Badolo and Diop will also look to give the forward thrust from the middle of the park and will be Sheriff Tiraspol’s go-to players for creativity.

Abou Ouattara and Rasheed Akanbi will be the two wide attackers for the hosts, looking to push inwards to support the central striker. And Iyayi Atiemwen will spearhead the Sheriff Tiraspol attack against Manchester United, with Steve Ambri and Key Tejan being backup options on the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Koval; Zohouri, Kiki, Radeljic, Kpozo; Badolo, Kyabou, Diop; Ouattara, Atiemwen, Akanbi

Manchester United

Unlike his counterpart in the Sheriff Tiraspol dugout, Erik ten Hag has a few concerns to contend with ahead of the trip to the Zimbru Stadium. The Manchester United manager will be without four first-team players on Thursday.

Anthony Martial continues to recover from an Achilles injury, while Donny van de Beek is dealing with a knock. In addition, Manchester United’s travelling squad excludes Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, with the duo’s absence surprising, considering the Red Devils will next be in competitive action in October.

With Manchester United scheduled to return to action after the international break, ten Hag will likely name a strong starting eleven with a few backup players expected to feature. Martin Dubravka has not travelled with Manchester United either, meaning David de Gea will start in goal against Sheriff Tiraspol, with the Red Devils lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez might reunite at the heart of the Manchester United defence, with Diogo Dalot retaining his spot on the right flank. But Luke Shaw might get a chance to impress, with the Englishman yet to start since the 4-0 defeat to Brentford last month.

Fred was dreadful as the no. 10 against Real Sociedad but might get an opportunity to start along with Casemiro, with the duo rekindling their partnership at the Brazilian national team. Fred might also get the nod because Christian Eriksen has featured in every game thus far for Manchester United and might need some rest.

Bruno Fernandes will don the armband for Manchester United and will reprise his usual no. 10 role. The Portuguese international will play just behind compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo, who will spearhead the attack against FC Sheriff. Jadon Sancho and Antony should be the two wide attackers for Manchester United on Thursday.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Fred, Casemiro; Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Sancho; Ronaldo

Key Stats

  • Thursday’s clash will be the first competitive meeting between Sheriff Tiraspol and Manchester United. Sheriff’s only previous outings against an English opponent came in this competition back in 2013/14, losing home and away to Tottenham Hotspur during the group stages. Christian Eriksen played in both matches, registering an assist in the away game.
  • Thursday’s match will be the first time in Manchester United’s history that they will face a team from Moldova. The Red Devils have won their last two matches when facing a team for the first time in Europe, beating Granada and Atalanta in 2021.
  • Sheriff Tiraspol are currently unbeaten in five home matches in the UEFA Europa League (W3 D2) and have won their last two such games without conceding a goal, defeating FC Zlin and Sporting Braga.
  • Manchester United have scored at least once in each of their last 15 away matches in European competitions (28 goals) since failing to net against AZ Alkmaar in October 2019, the longest such run in their history. Bruno Fernandes has been directly involved in 11 of the 28 goals they have scored across the run (five goals, six assists).
  • Erik ten Hag has lost only two of his 20 away matches in major European competitions as a manager (W12 D6), against Getafe in February 2020 and Liverpool in December 2020.

Player to Watch

Cristiano Ronaldo

Embed from Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo might not have envisioned featuring in the UEFA Europa League when he was agitating for a move away from Manchester United. But as fate has turned out, the Europa League seems like the only competition where the Portuguese international can currently start a game for Manchester United.

The veteran striker was sub-par against Real Sociedad last weekend but will look to make amends versus Sheriff Tiraspol. With a departure from Manchester United unlikely till the 2023 summer transfer window, Ronaldo will have to grind it out and fight for his place. So performances in the Europa League will be critical for him to become the first-choice striker for Manchester United.


Sheriff Tiraspol 1-2 Manchester United

Sheriff Tiraspol will be brimming with confidence after leaping to the top of Group E by beating Omonia Nicosia last week. But Manchester United will present a different challenge, akin to facing Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last season. But the Moldovan outfit showed in Europe’s premier competition that they are not afraid of the stature of their opponent.

However, playing away from the comforts of the Sheriff Sports Complex might be a factor worth considering, with UEFA ruling against a European tie being played in the region of Transnistria due to its proximity to Ukraine. Nonetheless, Sheriff Tiraspol will be confident of getting a result and likely score at least once against Manchester United.

However, the Red Devils will be smarting from the defeat to Real Sociedad, where they were listless at home. And with Erik ten Hag likely to name close to a first-choice starting eleven, Manchester United might be too strong for Sheriff Tiraspol. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Manchester United.

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