We preview Thursday Night's Europa League second leg quarter-final between Manchester United and Anderlecht.
Jose Mourinho is currently enjoying something of a late-season renaissance, with that victory over Chelsea opening up more plausible opportunities for Champions League qualification. He was quick to label his side as ‘sloppy’ in the aftermath of their 1-1 draw with Anderlecht last week. It’s true, United dominated large swathes of the game and were largely wasteful in front of goal. Leander Dendoncker’s late header gave Rene Weiler’s team a glimmer of hope as they travel to Old Trafford. Sitting pretty atop the Jupiler Pro League, Anderlecht showed that they have the firepower necessary to cause United problems, and they will also welcome back their star striker Lukasz Teodorczyk this week. They will be keen to show that they are in the competition on their own merits and are no mere footnote to United’s European travails.
Manchester United v Anderlecht | Thursday 20 April | Old Trafford | 20:45
To Win (90 Mins)
United 2/9 | Draw 5/1 | Anderlecht 11/1
Mourinho will likely field much the same side that featured last week. Michael Carrick was excellent last week, effectively acting as the conduit between defence and attack, while Marcus Rashford threatened to blow Anderlecht away in the first 30 minutes. Matteo Darmian looked more solid than Luke Shaw at left-back and actually also provided sufficient penetration. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard spurned various opportunities to extend the lead, which Mourinho was all too eager to point out. I think that his effusive praise of Paul Pogba - no matter what - could actually have a detrimental effect on the talented French star. He was quietly effective last week but still missed a guilt edged chance to put the tie to bed.
Pogba’s influence on this game could be immense. The French midfielder will likely be deployed in a more advanced role as Anderlecht will need to commit players forward in an attempt to force a result. With Carrick and Herrera likely to hold, Lingard may be the man to miss out on a starting berth this week. Antonio Valencia will once again provide that indomitable thrust down the right-hand-side, which will pose issues for Obradovic and company.
Anderlecht solidified their lead in the Jupiler Pro League this weekend and will be hoping to cause the mother of all upsets as they travel to Old Trafford this week. Old Trafford has hardly been a fortress this season, with United losing to both Feyenoord and Fenerbache thus far. Rene Weiler will no doubt be delighted to have leading scorer Teodorcyyk back in contention following a shoulder injury. His incision alongside the pace of Acheampong and creativity of Stanciu should provide United with enough problems this week.
Adrien Trebel will once again be cup-tied; so much of the midfield creative burden will fall on the shoulders of young Youri Tielemens. The dynamic Belgian was well marshalled in Belgium last week and may be deployed in a slightly more progressive role as the game advances. While Dennis Appiah was occasionally penetrative down that right-hand flank, he was far too often caught out of position by the explosive Rashford. He will need to be far more disciplined should they stand any chance of progression.
Verdict: Manchester United 1/4
This week is not one for sexy predictions. United were far the better team last week and should have buried Anderlecht on various occasions. Their victory over Chelsea will have only emboldened them further as they aim to pick up a trophy they have yet to win in their prestigious history: in whatever incarnation.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.