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Preview: Bruno Fernandes the key player to Manchester United’s success against Club Brugge at the Theatre of Dreams on Thursday evening

Manchester United -v- Club Brugge

UEFA Europa League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 27 February 2020, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Serdar Gözübüyük  Assistants: Charles Schaap, Jan de Vries Fourth Official: Allard Lindhout

VAR: Jochem Kamphuis Assistant VAR: Bas Nijhuis

Manchester United welcome Club Brugge back to Old Trafford on Thursday evening in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side earned a 1-1 draw at the Jan Breydel Stadium last Thursday, getting an away goal courtesy of Anthony Martial. United need to win this match in order to put themselves into Friday’s round of 16 draw in their bid for glory this season, which will also put them into the Champions League, if a Premier League position does not do that.

On Sunday, United beat Watford 3-0 at Old Trafford with Bruno Fernandes scoring from the spot, Anthony Martial doubling United’s lead and Mason Greenwood, assisted by Fernandes scoring the third goal of the game. Odion Ighalo, who has not yet started for United in the three matches played, came on in the second half and could have scored on his Old Trafford debut. Perhaps he will make his first start on Thursday?

Scott McTominay recovered from his knee injury to come off the bench against Watford and could well find himself starting in midfield against the Belgian side. Axel Tuanzebe could well be in line to be involved in the squad with Tim Fosu-Mensah also seeking to make his return after a thigh injury sustained since making his comeback from his long-term knee injury which required surgery.

Form: Both United and Brugge undefeated in their last six matches winning four and drawing twice. However, United scored 13 goals conceding one, keeping five clean sheets which is better than Brugge.

Manchester United: WDWDWW

Watford 3-0 W, Club Brugge 1-1 D, Chelsea 2-0 W, Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 D, Manchester City 1-0 W, Tranmere Rovers 6-0 W

Club Brugge: WDWDWW

Sporting Charleroi 1-0 W, Manchester United 1-1 D, Waasland-Beveren 2-1 W, Standard Liege 0-0 D, Zulte-Waregem 2-1 W, Antwerp 1-0 W

Top Scorers: 49 goals scored this season by Rashford, Martial and Greenwood. The addition of Fernandes and Ighalo could see United on the trail of goals more often than not.

Manchester United Goals: 19 – Marcus Rashford, 15 – Anthony Martial, 11 – Mason Greenwood, 3 – Daniel James, Scott McTominay, 2 – Own Goal, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, 1 – Diogo Dalot, Bruno Fernandes, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Nemanja Matic, Andreas Pereira, Brandon Williams, Ashley Young

United have seemingly turned a corner after back to back defeats in the Premier League last month. In the past six matches, United are undefeated, winning four and drawing twice, scoring 13 goals and conceding just one, keeping five clean sheets. At this important stage of the season, in the Premier League, Europa League and with the FA Cup sixth round coming up, United seem to be looking to achieve something.

Club Brugge Goals: 16 – Hans Vanaken, 11 – David Okereke, 9 – Emmanuel Dennis, 8 – Krépin Diatta, 4 – Mbaye Diagne, Siebe Schrijvers, Percy Tau, 3 – Éder Balanta, Simon Deli, Mats Rits, Ruud Vormer, 2 – Federico Ricca, 1 – Charles De Ketelaere, Brandon Mechele, Loïs Openda

Club Brugge are still top of the league in Belgium and seeking to put themselves into the round of 16 draw of the Europa League on Friday. However, United stand in their way at the Theatre of Dreams. Undefeated in their last six matches, the same as United, Brugge will be seeking to keep that form running. They have won four and draw twice, scoring seven goals, conceding three, keeping three clean sheets.

Team News: Three players out for the long-term with two nearing the end of their injury spell to strengthen United at an important part of the season; Brugge have five players injured and another suspended.

Solskjaer will be without Marcus Rashford (lower back), Paul Pogba (ankle), and Lee Grant (wrist) for this match with the trio recovering from long-term injuries. Axel Tuanzebe (thigh) could be back in action for this match, although it might come too soon for him whereas Tim Fosu-Mensah (thigh) could be ready for the Everton match on Sunday. Solskjaer will be happy that the injury list is getting smaller.

United will need to win this match in order to make it into the draw for the round of 16 stage of the Europa League this season, which will take place at noon (GMT) on Friday 28 February 2020. The 1-1 draw in Brugge last Thursday gives United a slight advantage having the away goal so a clean sheet and a 1-0 victory would be enough but United need to continue building their confidence so scoring more goals will be good.

Brugge will be without Krépin Diatta who has a groin injury and Éder Balanta who is suspended after being booked last week whilst he was a card away from a suspension. Emmanuel Dennis and captain Ruud Vormer will also miss out with both not travelling to Manchester. Youssouph Badji and Ignace Van der Brempt who both missed the first leg have not recovered wither. Loïs Openda is also a booking away from a suspension.

Brugge will be seeking to overturn United’s away goal and put themselves back in with a chance of reaching the round of 16 stage. However, with United seeking to keep their options open in view of reaching the Champions League next season, I expect them to prevail.

Predicted Starting XI: Martial and Ighalo to lead the line with Fernandes’ creative ability just behind with a three-man midfield consisting of McTominay, Fred and Matic?

Solskjaer should think about starting Odion Ighalo against Club Brugge after him making three appearances for the club and looking lively each time. United need to win this match. Having a forward line of Anthony Martial and Ighalo with Bruno Fernandes behind them would provide some good attacking play. A midfield three of Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic would strengthen the midfield too, ahead of a four man defence consisting of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw with Sergio Romero stepping in for David De Gea once again.

Match Prediction: United to seal their fate in the Europa League this season by beating Club Brugge and earning a round of 16 place in their bid for Champions League qualification this season.

United and Club Brugge have played a total of three matches in this history of both clubs with the first match being played in 2015. United have won two matches which were played during the qualification rounds of the UEFA Champions League during the 2015/16 season, drawing last week’s match. At Old Trafford, United won 3-1 with a own goal by Michael Carrick putting Brugge ahead then a brace from Memphis Depay followed by a goal from Marouane Fellaini put United in the driving seat to reach the group stages.

Away from home at the Jan Breydel Stadium, United won 4-0 with a hat-trick from Wayne Rooney and Ander Herrera scoring the final goal of the match. United beat the Belgian side 7-1 on aggregate to reach the group stages of the Champions League. United have always done well against Belgian teams in Europe, playing a total of eleven matches, winning seven, drawing twice and losing twice – scoring 33 goals, conceding 10.

Manchester United 4-0 Club Brugge

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