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Key Battles: Manchester United will go as far as Zlatan takes them

Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United squad are set to take on Anderlecht at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Thursday night in the UEFA Europa League Quarter-finals. Manchester United will certainly understand the importance of this match as the Europa League may present United with the clearest route to a return to the UEFA Champions League. Here I will look at three battles that could potentially decide the match.

Ander Herrera v Youri Tielemans

Herrera may not be the flashiest of players on the United squad but he may be the most effective. Usually taking up the opposite side of Paul Pogba in midfield this season, Herrera has been excellent defensively and his six defensive actions a game are more than any other midfielder on the squad. His play has allowed Paul Pogba to get forward and help United’s struggling attack. Herrera will have a big part to play in stopping Anderlecht’s 19-year-old wonder kid Youri Tielemans.

Tielemans, who has been linked with a move to Monaco or the Premier League this summer, has scored 18 goals in all competitions this season. The creative midfielder has also added 11 assists to his name. If Herrera and co. are able to stifle Tielemans and control the midfield they should be able to come away from Belgium with a win.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Kara Mbodji

Coming off a superb showing against Sunderland, which saw United’s star striker net his 28th goal of the season, confidence in Zlatan should be sky-high. United know the importance of getting an away goal Thursday night, and all eyes will be on Zlatan as he will be expected to once again find the back of the net. Just how far United go in this tournament could rely on the Swede’s form for the remainder of the season. He will be expected to lead the line against Anderlecht’s defense led by Kara Mbodji.

“King Kara,” Anderlecht’s highest rated defender will know he is in for a long night against Zlatan. If Anderlecht is to have any chance at advancing past the Quarter-finals they need a clean sheet at home Thursday night.

Eric Bailly v Lukasz Teodorczyk

Anderlecht may face a huge blow to their squad as the status of Lukasz Teodorczyk is in question. The Polish striker has matched Zlatan’s goal tally this season with 28 goals in all competitions. If Teodorczyk is unable to go, Anderlecht will be without their greatest goal threat. If Teodorczyk is able to take the field, Eric Bailly will be the man tasked to keep him from finding the back of the net.

Bailly has been a revelation for Manchester United this season and has the pace and physicality to deal with Teodorczyk. United have kept six of seven possible clean sheets when Bailly has played in the Europa League this season. And if United leaves Belgium with a clean sheet Thursday night, expect Bailly to have played a big part.

Written by Josh Soutas

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