Things could get worse for Manchester United before they get better.
The Red Devils have taken just four points from their last five Premier League games, and now they have a difficult test in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk. Just ask Chelsea how difficult a trip to Donbass Arena is—the Blues were dropped there last year in Champions League play, 2-1.
Despite a poor start to the Premier League season, can Manchester United make it two wins in a row in Champions League play? Or will their Ukrainian hosts add to the disappointments piling up early in the season?
When: Wednesday, October 2, at 2:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. BST)
Where: Donbass Arena, Donetsk, Ukraine
Watch: Fox Sports 1; Fox Soccer 2Go; Sky Sports 4
Robin van Persie is fit once more and should start atop the formation in this game, pairing with red-hot Wayne Rooney (five goals and four assists in seven appearances) at forward. Combining those two should be an easy decision for David Moyes.
But how he should rotate the rest of the squad remains a challenge for the manager, according to Richard Jolly of ESPN:
Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Shinji Kagawa, Nani and Javier Hernandez have made a solitary league start apiece. The injured Darren Fletcher, the inexperienced Adnan Januzaj, the unfancied Wilfried Zaha and the unused Anders Lindegaard have none.
The demanding early-season fixture list is one factor, along with an understandable wish to start well, and the reality it is a small sample size—indeed, perhaps because of Moyes' reluctance to show favouritism towards his new recruit Fellaini, Anderson has started twice, and few expected him to begin one-third of matches. Yet less than two months into the season, Moyes has given the impression he does not trust his younger central defenders or understand how to use the creative Kagawa.
The feeling is that he would be more comfortable with an all-powerful first XI than a multipurpose 25.
Moyes had better get it right in Ukraine. Shakhtar opened their Champions League campaign with an impressive 2-0 win at Real Sociedad and now return home, where they are extremely dangerous.
In four games at home in the Champions League a season ago, Shakhtar beat FC Nordsjaelland and Chelsea, drew with Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16 and lost to Juventus, 1-0 (shockingly, they drew with Juventus 1-1 in Turin).
If you think this is a guaranteed three points for Manchester United, think again.
On paper, this is a game United should win with Van Persie and Rooney leading the charge. But this game isn't being played on paper, it's being played in Donetsk, where the home side are a force to be reckoned with.
A Manchester United club on top form could go in and steal three points in this tough fixture. This current crop of Red Devils, however, won't have their way in this matchup.
Expect the game to end in a 1-1 draw.