Manchester United will be pitted against FC Copenhagen in the quarter-final of the UEFA Europa League on Monday evening which will be played at the RheinEnergieSTADION in Cologne. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side earned their place in the last eight of the competition by Beating Linzer ASK 7-1 on aggregate, scoring five goals in the first leg beck in March, winning 2-1 on Wednesday evening. Copenhagen beat İstanbul Başakşehir 3-1 on aggregate to reach this stage.
Solskjaer’s side earned a place in the UEFA Champions League next season by finishing third in the Premier League this season, beating Leicester City 2-0 in the final match of the season, finishing four points ahead of Leicester, a team who were 14 point ahead of them earlier in the season. United will be able to play for fun and pride in this tournament knowing that they have nothing to lose and everything to win. This could be the start of something special for Solskjaer especially facing compatriot Ståle Solbakken. Solskjaer said:
“I used to play with Ståle Solbakken, he’s a good friend of mine – we’ve been in touch. We wished each other good luck [before the last matches] and said hope to see you in Germany.
“They did their job, we did our job, so on to the next one. Ståle’s teams are always well organised and difficult to play against. Very talented young players with experience. It’s going to be a difficult one.”
How United have faired against FC Copenhagen and other Danish opposition in European competition.
United and Copenhagen met in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League during the 2006/07 season. At Old Trafford, United won the match 3-0 with goals from Paul Scholes, John O’Shea and Kieran Richardson. In the away match played at the Parken Stadion, United lost 1-0 with scoring the only goal of the game. United have not faced the Danish side for 14 years, which were the first two matches between the two clubs in their history. This one-legged match will be a good one.
United have played three other Danish teams in European competition starting with Brøndby in the 1998/99 season in the group stages of the Champions League. United won the away match 6-2, winning 5-0 at Old Trafford. During the 2008/09 season in the group stages of the Champions League, United beat Aalborg 3-0 away and drew 2-2 at Old Trafford. The most recent matches were against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League round fo 32, losing 2-1 away and winning 5-1 at home (6-3 on aggregate).
Here is my predicted starting XI to face FC Copenhagen in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final at the RheinEnergieSTADION in Cologne on Monday evening…
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
Sergio Romero should keep his place in the team for the competition. It might show David De Gea that he needs to try to improve in the areas where he has been weak this season. He has made some pretty embarrassing mistakes and for that reason, the Argentinian should be given a run in the competition that he has started in eight of the ten matches played so far this season. Romero is a great number two goalkeeper and seems to be happy in that position, although there have been reports that have stated otherwise, which might need addressing.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams
United’s defence is at barebones and it will be good to see Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof back in the starting XI. Lindelof was the MOTM against Leicester City in the final Premier League match of the season, in my opinion anyway. He had risen above the criticism and did what he needed to do and perhaps he could to the same thing against Copenhagen. Wan-Bissaka was missed too with Fosu-Mensah at right-back. Harry Maguire wants to play every game and you can see that he is determined to get something for the club this season. Brandon Williams started the last game, as did Maguire, and will probably keep his place in the team against the Danish side.
Midfield: Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic
In midfield, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba will do the job they have been doing for most of the restart period of the domestic season. Both player were missing from the starting XI against LASK and until Pogba came on, United looked dreadful. With Pogba in midfield, it led to Mata being a little bit more fluid and able to get two assists to inspire United to come from behind and win the match, despite their aggregate scoreline having them in a winning position already. Pogba, in form, is one of the players that can make the team tick. Matic is underrated too – what he has done this season has been brilliant and seen him earn a new contract at the club.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford
United lacked creativity without the trio of Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford against LASK on Wednesday. It was good to give them all a rest though, which was needed after all those matches in quick succession to end the domestic season. Greenwood has 17 goals and five assists with Fernandes on 10 goals and eight assists and Rashford on 22 goals and 10 assists. United will be much better with these three players against Copenhagen. Martial should be fully supplied with Fernandes’ creativity and both Greenwood and Rashford using width to keep him supplied. The trio will be looking forward to this match.
Striker: Anthony Martial
The Frenchman has scored 23 goals this season, with 11 assists, giving him a 34 goal contribution this season, which has been good for him. Hr is the in form player in the team at the moment and was needed on Wednesday when United were struggling to grind the victory. Martial has had the best season at the club in his career so far and seems to be happy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, which is great to see. The player seems full of smiles and as long as he is scoring or assisting, it will be enough to keep United ticking over.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Eric Bailly, Tim Fosu-Mensah, Teden Mengi; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Daniel James, Scott McTominay; Odion Ighalo, Tahith Chong
Solskjaer named 12 players on the bench in the last match on Wednesday so will probably have the same depth on the bench on Monday. He can use five substitutes. David De Gea will be the goalkeeper on the bench, should he be needed. In defence, because of injuries, Eric Bailly, Tim Fosu-Mensah and Teden Mengi could be included should they be needed during the match. In midfield, United have many rotation players with Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Daniel James, and Scott McTominay. In attack, Odion Ighalo and Tahith Chong could be utilised if needed. I feel this will give United enough to get the result they need, as long as those starting get the business done.
Written by John Walker