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Preview: Manchester United looking to blow Anderlecht out of the water?

Manchester United -v- Anderlecht

Old Trafford, Manchester

UEFA Europa League 2016/17

Thursday 20th April 2017; KO 20:05 BST

Live on BT Sport 2HD

Manchester United will welcome Belgian side Anderlecht to Old Trafford on Thursday evening, looking to earn a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europe League this season. A week ago, United drew 1-1 in Belgium with Henrikh Mkhitaryan opening the scoring, but a late equaliser by Leander Dendoncker gave Jose Mourinho’s side much more to do. Fresh from the 2-0 Premier League victory over Chelsea at Old Trafford, United will be confident after beating the champions elect, a match which could be the start of Antonio Conte’s teams collapse with Tottenham Hotspur now challenging for the league title, just four points behind Chelsea. Anderlecht beat Oostende in Belgium this weekend, which will give United all the more confidence with their own victory against Chelsea, Mourinho’s former team.

United have been boosted in their bid for UEFA Champions League football next season with their league position, keeping fifth place, just four points behind Manchester City, who they face a week after the visit of Anderlecht. This weekend, United will travel to Burnley, a stadium that many have found it hard to leave with three points but should that happen, United will be a point behind City heading into the Manchester derby, which could even see them rise to fourth, which would be the start of something good for United and Mourinho. United’s new-found form could be something that will give their opposition something to think about. Many will look at the match at Old Trafford on Sunday with a view to setting up their team to avoid that, only for United to play a different formation and style, which would be the best thing to do, making the side less predictable.

Jose Mourinho has many options, with only three players on the sidelines through injury; two of whom could play again before the end of the season, another will have to wait until pre-season to play for the club again – or even Michael Carrick’s testimonial in June, which would seem more likely. Maintaining a place in the Europa League this season will be the main aim, which will then give United another two matches to play next month, meaning that there will be no periods of rest between the Swansea City (home) match and the Arsenal (away) match between the 30th April and the 7th May. That will pose some problems in the fitness of the squad, but I am sure Mourinho and his team will have things in place to maintain freshness of his side, especially with rotation between matches seeming more of an issue with many rested this weekend, in view of the oncoming fixtures.

Match Officials: Alberto Undiano Mallenco has officiated two matches involving United; the last five years ago

Alberto Undiano Mallenco of Spain will officiate the match at Old Trafford on Thursday evening. Mallenco has been the match official twice involving United, going back five years and more. His most recent match was the 2-1 victory over CFR Cluj on the 2nd October 2012, before that he took charge of the 1-0 victory over Chelsea on the 6th April 2011. This season, Mallenco has taken charge of 16 La Liga matches, three Copa del Ray matches, three Champions League matches (one a qualifier) and three Europa League matches all at club level. On the international stage, Mallenco has taken charge of two FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Raúl Cabanero and Diego Barbero Sevilla have been named as the assistant referees, Carlos Gómez and José María Sanchez Martinez are the additional assistant referees and the fourth official will be Roberto Alonso.

Form: Manchester United may have been late to reach their current form, but boy is it refreshing…

Manchester United: Jose Mourinho’s side are in good form at this right time this season. Unbeaten in their last 22 matches in the Premier League, which includes the 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday. United seem to have found something which gives their opposition a battle, against Chelsea it was one the visitors could not win. United have been defeated three times in the league this season; two less than the league leaders. Last Thursday in Belgium, United managed a 1-1 draw, scoring the first goal, but them failing to double their lead. A win at Old Trafford, which is a venue many have not left with a win this season, will be what United need in order to reach the semi-finals of the Europa League, which would leave them two matches from the final in Sweden next month.

Anderlecht: René Weiler’s side are top of the Belgian First Division A table, six points clear if KAA Gent, looking to take the league title this season, although they have only played three of ten matches so far. Weiler’s side are a good one, attacking very well with many class players in his side. Łukasz Teodorczyk and Youri Tielemans are just two players in the side, but between them they are responsible for 42 goals this season, when even though most were scored in Belgium, is a good tally for two players to reach. Of course, Anderlecht could lose key players this summer, but keeping Manchester United out of the semi-finals of the Europa League will be what they aim to do. Winning the Belgian Jupiler Pro League may be something they feel they can do easily, but winning the Europa League will be their main aim of the season.

The road to the Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Europa League: Who will make it to the semi-finals?

Manchester United: Jose Mourinho’s side entered the group stages of the Europa League this season, pitted against Feyenoord, Zorya Luhansk, and Fenerbahce. In the first group stage match, United were beaten 1-0 away to Feyenoord. A 1-0 victory over Zorya in the second match put United on winning ways. In the third match, a 4-1 home victory over Fenerbahce helped United efforts in the competition. The fourth match saw United defeated 2-1 in the reverse fixture. A 4-0 victory over Feyenoord put United in the driving seat to make it to the knockout stages, which was secured by a 2-0 victory over Zorya. In the round fo 32, United beat Saint-Etienne 4-0 on aggregate, earning a round of 16 tie with Rostov, winning 2-1 on aggregate. United were drawn against Anderlecht in the quarter-final with the first leg being played in Belgium. United and Anderlecht drew 1-1 with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring United’s goal, leaving the leg at Old Trafford as the decider; both teams will be looking to book their place in the semi-final.

Anderlecht: The Belgian side entered the play-off of the Europa League, after exiting the same stage of the Champions League at the hands of Rostov. The beat Slavia Praha 6-0 on aggregate. In the group stages, Anderlecht were pitted against Saint-Etienne, Mainz 05 and Gabala. The Belgian side beat Gabala 3-1 in their opening group match, then drew 1-1 with Saint-Etienne. In their third match, another 1-1 draw, this time against Mainz. In their fourth match, a 6-1 victory over Mainz helped them on their way to the knockout stages The fifth match resulted in a 3-1 victory over Gabala and the final group stage match, a 3-2 defeat to Saint-Etienne, who topped the group. In the round of 32, Anderlecht beat Zenit St Petersburg on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate victory. In the round of 16, a 2-0 aggregate victory over APOEL saw them face United in the quarter-finals. The first leg ended 1-1, which means the second leg at Old Trafford will be one Anderlecht will be looking to win.

Who are the top scorers at both Manchester United and Anderlecht this season?

Manchester United: 28 – Zlatan Ibrahimović, 10 – Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, 9 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 7 – Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, 5 – Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, 3 – Marouane Fellaini, 2 – Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling, 1 – Daley Blind, Own Goal, Marcos Rojo, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Antonio Valencia

Anderlecht: 28 – Łukasz Teodorczyk, 18 – Youri Tielemans, 11 – Sofiane Hanni, 8 – Nicolae Stanciu, 5 – Frank Acheampong, Massimo Bruno, Alexandru Chipciu, 4 – Leander Dendoncker, 3 – Kara Mbodji, Idrissa Sylla, 2 – Diego Capel, Hamdi Harbaoui, Uroš Spajić, 1 – Steven Defour, Michaël Heylen, Bram Nuytinck, Ivan Obradović, Isaac Kiese Thelin

Team News: Three players out of the match, lots of fresh players likely to be involved!

Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and Juan Mata will definitely miss this match through injury. Wayne Rooney, who has been training for about a week now, could well be back in contention, but with him not in the side, United have played much better, which to me suggests life after Rooney. Jose Mourinho has some fresh players in his ranks for the visit of Anderlecht with Anthony Martial missing Sunday’s match, with Daley Blind, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Luke Shaw all unused substitutes, meaning that all, or some of those could be in the starting XI against the Belgian side. I am sure Mourinho would like to play a similar formation and tactics he used against Chelsea, but with this being just four days later, Anderlecht may have taken not with a view to set up against that happening, so trying something new again would give a better chance of it working for the home side.

Previous Meetings: A 10-0 record victory during the rise of the Busby Babes

Manchester United and Anderlecht have met six times in the history of both clubs dating between the 12th September 1956 and Thursday night’s match. The most recent match dates back to the 24th October 2000, which saw United defeated 2-1 in Belgium. In total, United have won four matches, losing twice. United still hold a club record today for the biggest victory, which was against Anderlecht in the game played on the 26th September 1956, a fortnight after the first match between the two clubs, with United winning 10-0 in a match due to be played at Old Trafford, but a floodlight failure moved the game to Manchester City’s former home, Maine Road. Dennis Viollet scored four in that match, Tommy Taylor scored a hat-trick, Liam Whelan scored a brace and Johnny Berry scored once. It was, of course, just under 17 months before that fateful day in Munich saw those Busby Babes end their days as one of the most exciting teams in English football history. United have won every home match against Anderlecht but their away form against the Belgian side is questionable, losing two of four away matches played.

Starting XI Prediction: Who is going to start against Anderlecht?

Predicted Score:

Manchester United 2-0 Anderlecht

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