Manchester United will look to take a big step towards reaching the Last 16 stages of the UEFA Europa League when they take on Club Brugge on Thursday.
The UEFA Europa League resumes this week, as the knockout stages of the 2019-20 kicks off, with all of the games being played on Thursday as is usually the case. Manchester United will continue their campaign in the competition when they travel to the Jan Breydel Stadium to lock horns with Club Brugge.
Club Brugge started their European journey this season in the Champions League. However, after finishing third in Group A, they dropped down to the Europa League, where they enter in the Last 32 stages. In domestic football, Philippe Clement & co. are cruising towards the Jupiler Pro League title, with second-placed Gent nine points behind them.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have been a part of this season’s Europa League since the group stage, finishing atop Group L rather comfortably. Back home, they have endured a topsy turvy Premier League campaign, but come into this game on the back of a confidence boosting 2-0 win over Chelsea.
Manchester United and Club Brugge last clashed in the 2015-16 season, with United prevailing 3-1 at the Jan Breydel Stadium, Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Philippe Clement does not have any pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United. On Thursday, the Club Brugge manager has a full strength squad at his disposal and is set to welcome Clinton Mata and Krepin Diatta back into action in European football after the duo missed the last Champions League game due to suspension.
Clement will line his side up in a 3-5-2 formation, with both Mata and Diatta expected to start. Mata, a right-back by trade, will be a part of the back three, with Brandon Mechele and Simon Deli for company in defence. Diatta, on the other hand, will be deployed as the right wing-back.
Former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet will take his place between the sticks, looking to add another moment of frustration for Manchester United this season. Federico Ricca will be the left wing-back, with Mats Rits tasked with shielding the backline, while Brugge captain Rudi Vormer and Hans Vanaken will look to drive the team forward.
Emmanuel Dennis and Michael Krmencik will form the strike partnership, with the duo aiming to get the goals that gives Brugge the advantage in this tie.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Mignolet; Mata, Mechele, Deli; Diatta, Vanaken, Rits, Vormer, Ricca; Dennis, Krmencik
Fortunately for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he has seen his squad’s injury woes ease up considerably. Against Club Brugge on Thursday, the Manchester United manager will be without just four first-team players, with Scott McTominay and Axel Tuanzebe inching closer to their returns from their respective injuries.
The duo could be a part of the matchday squad, having trained this week, but are unlikely to start against Brugge. Solskjaer, though, is expected to make a raft of changes, as is usually the case in the Europa League, starting with Sergio Romero replacing David de Gea in goal. In front of him, the Manchester United boss is expected to line the side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Diogo Dalot should get a chance to impress, starting on the right side of the Manchester United defence, while Brandon Williams will take his place on the opposite flank. Victor Lindelof has recovered from the illness that forced him to miss the Chelsea game and should be captain Harry Maguire’s central defensive partner.
With McTominay unlikely to start just yet, Fred will continue in the midfield double pivot, with Andreas Pereira likely to provide him company, so as to allow Nemanja Matic a rest. Bruno Fernandes has played each of the two games since joining Manchester United, but is likely to keep his place in the side as he continues to establish himself in the side.
Mason Greenwood does not seem to have travelled with the Manchester United squad to Bruges. In his absence, Juan Mata could line up on the right side of the Manchester United attack. On the opposite flank, Anthony Martial should start, having returned to goalscoring form against Chelsea. Odion Ighalo should lead the line against Brugge after making his debut earlier this week.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Romero; Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams; Fred, Pereira; Mata, Fernandes, Martial; Ighalo
- Manchester United and Club Brugge have faced each other twice before, with the Red Devils winning 3-1 at the Jan Breydel Stadium and 4-0 at home in the 2015-16 Champions League Qualifiers.
- Club Brugge are winless in their last 10 meetings with English sides in all competitions (D2 L8), since a 1-0 win over Chelsea in the 1994-95 Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 10 Europa League knockout stage games (D6 L4), since a 0-2 loss to Liverpool in March 2016. The Red Devils, in fact, won the tournament the last time they participated in it.
- Club Brugge were eliminated from the Europa League at this exact stage last season, last progressing from a knockout tie in the competition in the 2014-15 season (Round of 16 vs Besiktas).
- Manchester United have lost just one of their last eight away games in the Europa League (W4 D3), although that defeat came in their last fixture at Astana in the group stage this term.
Player to Watch
Much like Manchester United as a collective, 2019-20 has been quite the roller-coaster of a ride for Anthony Martial. While the Frenchman has shown plenty of signs of class and substance, he has also struggled to maintain consistency, especially in the absence of Marcus Rashford.
However, with Bruno Fernandes on-board at Manchester United, Martial seems to be getting some of the groove back in his game. Now, set to be supplied with more quality, it is now up to Martial to add that consistency to his game that has been lacking for some time now. A Europa League fixture provides him the chance to do exactly that.
Club Brugge 1-2 Manchester United
Club Brugge showed in the Champions League this season that they are not a side to be taken lightly, having given Real Madrid a run for their money. Manchester United, though, seem to have revelled in the Europa League this term and are steadily improving following the arrival of Bruno Fernandes.
In the absence of Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial will shoulder more goalscoring burden while Odion Ighalo will look to make a splash in what could be his full debut. Expect a keenly contested fixture, with the visitors likely to come out on top in the end. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co. over Brugge.