Manchester United host Anderlecht at the Old Trafford on Thursday hoping to qualify for the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League.
Manchester United gave their one-goal lead away at Anderlecht in the first-leg of the UEFA Europa League but are still in with a great chance to progress to the semi-finals of the competition. With the fixture tied at 1-1, United need to just not concede in order to advance to the next stage.
Anderlecht channeled their fighting spirit in the first-leg to make the fixture a bit more even than a 0-1 scoreline would have done. And the Belgians arrive at Old Trafford knowing that they must score on Thursday in order to have even the slightest of chance of making it into the semi-finals.
Manchester United, though, are high on confidence after they dominated Chelsea in a 2-0 win at Old Trafford over the weekend and Jose Mourinho would hope his Red Devils are able to carry forward their form from the game over to the midweek fixture.
We at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at the fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Manchester United have their usual absentees in Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Juan Mata, who all look destined to miss the rest of the season. However, Juan Mata is the only one confirmed to be out for the remainder of the season and while there is no update on Phil Jones, Smalling has started light training and could be set to return ‘mid-May’.
The manager admitted earlier that Rooney was struggling with fitness and the captain is unlikely to feature on Thursday. However, the one fresh potential absentee, who may be vital, is Jesse Lingard, who has been a livewire for the boss whenever called upon.
Michael Carrick did not start against Chelsea amid talks that Jose was preserving him for Thursday. The veteran did come on late in the 2-0 win over Chelsea but is expected to be in the starting eleven on Thursday. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who also came on late, is another player expected to resume his duties upfront.
Anthony Martial might get a look in, considering Juan Mata being out for the remainder of the season and Jesse Lingard’s potential unavailability as well. However, Jose does have Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford, and could look to deploy them, with the Frenchman on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Shaw; Carrick, Pogba; Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Zlatan
The Belgian side does not have any major injury concerns with Andy Najar the only one doubtful for the tie. The midfield pairing of Dendoncker and Tielemans worked wonders in the first leg, with the former scoring the equalizer and the latter being solid, even though he was quiet most of the time.
Anderlecht know they must score in order to have any chance of qualifying and is likely to look to be on the front foot from the get-go at Old Trafford in an attempt to get an early goal and then lay back and absorb pressure. The pressure will be on Teodorczyk, who is likely to lead the attack for the Belgian outfit.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Roef; Appiah, Kara, Nuytinck, Obradovic; Dendoncker, Tielemans; Bruno, Stanciu, Acheampong; Teodorczyk
1. History – UEFA Europa League is the only major European trophy yet to be a part of Manchester United’s trophy cabinet. Manchester United have not even reached the semi-finals of the competition. They last reached the Quarters back in 1984-85, where they lost to Hungarian side Videoton.
2. Leak Proof – Manchester United have conceded just 6 goals in the Europa League so far in 11 matches.
3. Fortress – The Red Devils have lost just 1 game in the entire season at home up until now and are on a current undefeated home streak of 26 games.
4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 5 goals and 3 assists from 8 starts – 10 appearances – in the UEFA Europa League and is expected to be the main threat for Anderlecht.
5. However, Anderlecht’s forward Lukasz Teodorczyk is tied with Zlatan at 5 goals, having no assists, in 7 starts – 10 appearances – for Anderlecht in the competition.
Player to Watch
The Belgian was quiet but solid in the first leg. But, he needs to bring his A game if Anderlecht are to stand any chance of causing an upset at Old Trafford on Thursday. The midfield sensation has been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea recently and the fixture could well prove to be an audition for the player.
A great performance against a top club like Manchester United in the current situation would further cement his image of a big-game player and could drive up his valuation and interest.
Manchester United 2 – 1 Anderlecht
Honestly, this could very well stretch into extra-time as we see Anderlecht scoring at least 1 goal and United scoring one as well. However, the presence of stars like Zlatan, Pogba and Mkhitaryan tilts the balance in United’s favour and we feel the Red Devils will have enough in their locker to earn the win in regulation time.
However, the margin is unlikely to stretch beyond a single goal.