United return to European football this Thursday as we welcome Anderlecht to Old Trafford for the second leg of the Europa League Quarter-final. The tie is finely poised after a 1-1 first leg in Brussels. Mkhitaryan scoring a vital away goal for the Reds which will make United firm favourites to qualify for the last four. Despite Leander Dendoncker’s late equaliser at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Mourinho’s men will be confident of making it to the semis.
Since the meeting last Thursday between these two sides, United recorded a convincing and exciting 2-0 win over Premier League leaders Chelsea on Easter Sunday. Whereas Anderlecht, they took another step towards the Belgian league title with a narrow 1-0 victory at KV Oostende on Sunday. Both sides should be in good spirits for the clash on Thursday.
As it stands United will qualify through the away goals rule. So don’t be surprised if Mourinho looks to counter quickly as Anderlecht have to score. It’s unlikely the Reds will throw numbers forward in an attempt to rack up the score line. I believe it will be a measured approach that will require a certain level of professionalism, not allowing emotion and the occasion to take over.
A key part of United’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea at the weekend was having Herrera man mark Hazard wherever the Belgian was on the field. Although Youri Tielemans isn’t of the same calibre as Hazard, he is still a player which may require special attention as the youthful captain can do damage if given time and space.
Early Team News
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was rested for the game on Sunday due to ‘tiredness’, he did however come on as a sub in the latter stages of the game. He should feature in the starting line-up as I dread to think what would happen if he was benched for two games in a row. However the Boss was full of praise for Rashford and it will be interesting to see whether he will keep a place in the team. Herrera had a fine game on Sunday and I expect him to be involved along with centre back pairing Bailly and Rojo. Sergio Romero is likely to start between the sticks as he seems to be the keeper of choice throughout the Europa League campaign. Last week Mourinho highlighted defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are expected to be out until mid-May while Juan Mata’s return is doubtful for the rest of the season with a groin injury.
United to qualify – I can’t see any other outcome. Whether we will win the tie or not, I’m unsure as I don’t know how attacking Mourinho’s side will be. If Zlatan starts up front, which I presume he will, I can’t see us doing as much damage on the counter attack than if Rashford was up top. However this is a massively important game in the context of United’s season and if the Reds were to be knocked out of the competition at this stage, the quest for Champions League football would become a much more difficult task.
Other Quarter-Final Fixtures
Besiktas (1) v Lyon (2)
Genk (2) v Celta Vigo (3)
Schalke (0) v Ajax (2)
If United go through, the semi-final pairings will be pulled out of UEFA’s glass bowls at 12:00 BST (13:00 local time) in Switzerland this Friday, 21 April.