Manchester United will be looking to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2018/19 when they take on Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their round of 16 on Tuesday night.
After playing out a 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Spain last month, it’s all to play for at Old Trafford in the second half. United found their way back to winning ways with a 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, meaning they will be looking to register a second straight win.
Cristiano Ronaldo came back from injury in style, scoring a hat-trick, to inject some much-needed confidence in United’s veins ahead of the Atletico encounter. The visit of the Spanish giants will mark United’s last game until April 2, meaning they will be hoping to head into an extended international break on a high.
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In a bid to ensure they do just that, the players, along with caretaker manager Ralf Rangnick, worked hard at the club’s training base in Carrington ahead of the tussle with Diego Simeone’s side. Below, MEN Sports picked out four things we spotted during Monday’s practice session.
The united trio of Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes all practiced on Monday, giving Rangnick a huge boost before naming his team on game day. The trio all missed the win over Spurs, with Shaw and Fernandes both testing positive for Covid-19, while McTominay missed with a calf problem.
Nonetheless, they’ve all been training at Carrington along with the rest of the first team, meaning Rangnick should be given a fully fit squad to choose from. However, small question marks remain over Shaw’s availability.
“As things stand we have all the players available for tomorrow, there’s a little question mark behind Luke Shaw,” Rangnick said, speaking Monday lunchtime. “He trained yesterday [Sunday] and today, but we have to wait and see if he is fully fit to be available for the game.
“All the other players are back in training and available for tomorrow.”
All three will be eager to get involved and help United reach the last eight. Shaw and Fernandes started the second leg in Spain, but McTominay missed the game due to illness.
Fred basks in the sun
Is summer finally coming? After what seemed like a prolonged winter, warmer weather and lighter days are beginning to arrive.
And as the players headed to the training grounds on Monday, Fred, who will no doubt be used to warmer conditions given his Brazilian heritage, took advantage. He was photographed looking up into the sky, with the sun beaming down, and saying what appeared to be a prayer.
He was outstanding against Spurs on Saturday and has become United’s unsung hero in recent weeks. He should be a certain starter against Atletico.
Although midfielder Hannibal Mejbri hasn’t made a single first-team appearance for United this season, he continues to train with the first team. He trained on Monday with Jadon Sancho and Ronaldo but no opening has arrived yet.
He hasn’t played for the first team since the last day of last season and has only been named to the matchday squad four times since Rangnick took charge. However, his regular duties with his native Tunisia have impacted his chances at Old Trafford.
“He will now train regularly with us and be a regular member of the squad,” Rangnick said last month. “I saw him play in [Arab Cup] final and, from what I’ve seen so far, I think he’s a promising talent. He deserves to be in the squad for the rest of the season.”
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Mee gets the call
Although David de Gea, Dean Henderson, Lee Grant and Tom Heaton are all available for selection and in fine form, Rangnick recently welcomed youngster Dermot Mee into the fold of first-team training. He trained with the senior stars to help his development, despite being just 19 years old.
Again on Monday, Mee was pictured hitting the training grounds with Heaton and Fernandes. The opportunities will do little to harm the youngster’s development and offer Rangnick the chance to see a potential future star up close.
Mee, who joined United in 2019, has featured twice for the Under-23s in Premier League 2 this season. He also made two appearances in the Papa John Trophy, starting tussles with Lincoln City and Sunderland.
Among all the pictures from the training session released, there was no shortage of smiles and happy faces. United’s players were grinning from ear to ear as they put in the hard yards ahead of Atletico’s arrival in England.
Saturday’s win over Spurs will certainly have boosted the level of confidence within the side and United must make the most of it. Reaching the quarter-finals will only increase confidence levels.
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