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Report: United leave it late to earn semi-final position; Rashford the star

Manchester United beat Anderlecht 2-1 at Old Trafford on Thursday evening, 3-2 on aggregate but needed extra time to win the match. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the opening goal in the tenth minute of the match, with Anderlecht equalising in the 32nd minute. Marcos Rojo was injured in the 23rd minute of the match and stretchered off, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was injured in the last-minute of normal time, which could see his season being over. Marcus Rashford took the plaudits with a sublime goal in the 107th minute, making it one goal and one assist this evening. Manchester United were through to the semi-final of the Europa League for the first time.

Jose Mourinho made five changes from Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea with Sergio Romero, Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to the starting XI. United started the game on the front foot, getting forward and pressuring the Belgian side from the off. Jesse Lingard had a good chance to create something, but Anderlecht regained possession, nipping the attack in the bud. Anderlecht soon got their plans together, going on the attack with Marcos Rojo having to thwart the attack. Leander Dendoncker then got a shot towards goal from 30-yards, which went over the crossbar and clipped the roof of the net.

United, despite being under a bit of pressure from the visitors, got themselves into a good attacking position with Marcus Rashford which was created by Paul Pogba issuing a perfectly weighted pass through the defence to the 19-year-old. Rashford’s initial cross was blocked, but he then regained possession of the ball to set up Henrikh Mkhitaryan who scored his second goal against the Belgian side in a week, and his fifth of the UEFA Europa League this season, in the tenth minute of the match. In the 18th minute of the match, Marcos Rojo seemed like he collided whilst defending an Anderlecht attack, hurting his knee. After some treatment, he was able to continue.

United nearly conceded a goal in the  22nd minute of the match with Frank Acheampong through on goal and Sergio Romero getting a touch to send it out for a corner. Rojo was down again in the aftermath of that chance, with him being stretchered off and Daley Blind replacing him. Big blow for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho who are now back to barebones with their defence. United had a few good opportunities going forward, but Anderlecht were getting something together. Just after the half-hour mark, Anderlecht equalised through Sofiane Hanni, scoring the away goal which sets the game level, not only tonight but on aggregate too. United need to ensure they don’t allow the Belgian side to score again.

United made the move to get themselves back within a chance to make it into the draw tomorrow. Some good interplay in the midfield and the attack with Paul Pogba again trying to set something up, giving the ball to Mkhitaryan, who had a good first touch, but his second, a shot on goal, was wide of the mark. United were adding pressure to the Anderlecht defence, keeping their patience and moving the ball regularly. Two additional minutes were played at the end of the first half with Anderlecht on the attack and everything nearly falling into place for Hanni to score again. It was not to be for the visitors, though. 1-1 at the end of the half, 2-2 on aggregate. All to play for.

United continued in the second half where they left the first, trying to turn this around and get a second goal. On the 50th minute of the match, Luke Shaw burst up the left flank, some good interplay with Rashford with the ball rolling past the face of the goal and an onrushing Lingard could not get United’s second goal of the evening. Unlucky. Anderlecht then had their turn to add pressure to United’s defence, not getting what they wanted. Anderlecht were getting more and more chances to make United suffer, but they just were not going to plan, for them at least. United then had their chance to add pressure, not getting anything on that attack.

On the hour, United made their second change with Marouane Fellaini replacing Jesse Lingard to a chorus of boos from the away section of Old Trafford. United were in a good position through Rashford in the 65th minute of the match with the 19-year-old having a free shot on goal, but it just not challenging the Anderlecht goalkeeper. Rashford could have scored a blinding goal just before the 70th minute with him through on goal, rounding the keeper and his chance dying as quickly as it came for him. In the 75th minute of the match, after some good play from United, they won a corner, which came to nothing. United needed to be doing so much more to stay in this competition.

It was looking like a match United just did not want with Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing another clear chance on goal. Not sure what is happening there. United had plenty of opportunities to score, just not getting a precise kick to threaten, which is costing them more and more as the minutes wind down to 90. United had an onslaught of chances in the dying minutes of the match, which just did not want to go in for United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was injured in the last-minute of the match, being replaced by Anthony Martial at the start of extra time. United had a chance from the off with Rashford hitting a rabona and Pogba attempting to score with an overhead kick. Mkhitaryan had a chance minutes later, after Anderlecht had one, both sides still chasing the game.

United scored in the 100th minute of the match through Pogba, but it was ruled out as Fellaini impeded his defender in the build-up to the goal. United back to square one. United had twenty attempts on goal throughout the match, 31 between the two teams. Youri Tielemans had a chance at the end of the first half of extra time which bounced off Sergio Romero, who then got the ball just before the onrushing player looking to find the back of the net. Fifteen minutes left for United to win this, or it would be a penalty shootout. United took the lead in the 107th minute through Rashford. Unlucky it was not at least his third goal this evening.

United and Anderlecht were both having chances after United’s second goal of the evening. The Belgian side had put the work in to get forward, with United playing deep and another away goal would see them through if there were no more goals from United. United were defending well though, which was a good thing. Anthony Martial scored for United, but the flag was up. Just over a minute plus stoppage time to go. This is a very close match. Too close for comfort. United were into the semi-final of the Europa League.

Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 10′, Marcus Rashford 107′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 10′, Marouane Fellaini 107′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo (Blind 23′), Shaw; Carrick, Pogba; Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Lingard (Fellaini 60′); Ibrahimovic (Martial 90)

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Young, Herrera; Rooney

Ibrahimovic leads the line; Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Rashford involved against Anderlecht

Manchester United go head-to-head with Belgian side Anderlecht in the second leg of the quarter-final in the UEFA Europa League at Old Trafford this evening. A week ago, Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the opening goal in the reverse fixture in Belgium, but a late equaliser from Leander Dendoncker saw that match end in a 1-1 draw, with United getting the away goal they set out to score. This evening, though, United will be under pressure to ensure the Belgian side do not score a single goal, aiming to win and win well in a bid to see them in tomorrow’s draw for the semi-final in Europe’s secondary tournament – a chance to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. Jose Mourinho’s side will have been boosted by the victory over Premier League leaders Chelsea on Sunday, which could also suggest Anderlecht will be wary of the threat United could well be against them this evening.

Manchester United:

Romero;

Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Shaw;

Carrick, Pogba;

Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Lingard;

Ibrahimovic

Substitutes:

De Gea; Blind; Martial, Young, Herrera, Fellaini; Rooney

Anderlecht:

Ruben;

Appiah, Mbodji, Spajic, Obradovic;

Tielemans, Dendoncker, Hanni;

Chipciu, Teodorczyk, Acheampong

Substitutes:

Deschacht, Bruno, Nuytinck, Capel, Boeckx, Thelin, Stanciu

Tonight’s match will be the eighth between the two sides with the first meeting played on the 12th September 1956, which resulted in a 2-0 victory for United away from home. A fortnight later on the 26th September 1956, United won the reverse fixture 10-0, a 12-0 aggregate victory over the two legs. It was twelve years later on the 13th November 1968 before United and Anderlecht met again; a 3-0 victory at home was followed by a 3-1 defeat away, with United going through with a 4-3 aggregate victory. Thirty-two years later, United and Anderlecht met again, this time with a 5-1 victory for United at Old Trafford, which was followed by a 2-1 defeat away from home. A week ago, United and Anderlecht met for the seventh time in the history of both clubs, drawing 1-1, making tonight the match which will make all the difference for the winner.

Key Battles: Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo key to beating Anderlecht

Manchester United face Anderlecht at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg on Thursday night in a match with all to play for. A week ago, United draw 1-1 in Belgium with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring the opening goal and Leander Dendoncker equalising minutes from time. United had the away goal they were pushing for but will need to score more at Old Trafford, maybe ensuring the Belgian side to not score at the Theatre of Dreams, which would be good considering David De Gea kept a clean sheet, his twelfth in the Premier League this season, against Chelsea at Old Trafford. United still have two chances to earn Champions League football next season, by finishing in the top four in the league or winning the Europa League. There will be many key battles on the famous pitch at Old Trafford on Thursday night, here are just three of them…

Zlatan Ibrahimovic -v- Bram Nuytinck

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was effectively rested against Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday, playing just eight minutes at the end of the match, which will keep him fresh ahead of the visit of Anderlecht on Thursday evening. The Swede is United’s top scorer with 28 goals in all competitions this season and he will be looking to build on that. United need goals and will be looking to have their name in the draw for the semi-finals on Friday. Zlatan may have missed many opportunities this season in front of goal, but the sheer fact that he is a prolific goalscorer throughout his entire career will mean that success could be within his control. Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera did what was needed of United against Chelsea, it will be the big Swede’s turn to do just that on Thursday evening. Dutch central defender Bram Nuytinck might well find himself looking after Zlatan, well, trying to stop him from scoring, which could see the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial et al reign supreme with the space afforded by marking the Swede. Nuytinck may well have his work cut out in the physical aspect of the match, which could well be enough for Anderlecht to come away from Old Trafford with a semi-final place in the bag, although United will do all they can to stop that.

Paul Pogba -v- Youri Tielemans

Paul Pogba is a player that whilst playing in the Premier League, has been consistent in the form shown in his four seasons at Juventus. With the Premier League being more prestigious, that shows an improvement in the player which many fail to see because they are basing his performances in the £89 million transfer fee as if the money paid guarantees goals. Anyway, Pogba is a player that have massively improved United’s midfield this season, despite not playing in his preferred position, on the left of a midfield three, it does make me wonder what this side with Pogba in that role would be like. Pogba’s battle with Youri Tielemans may not be a head-to-head battle as such, but one to rule the roost in the midfield based on grinding out the passes to the forward players, creating chances and maybe even getting shots of their own. Both players are blessed with talent, that is evident based on what both have achieved in their early careers, but on the night, the one who does the most for their team will rule the roost, and it looks to be an evening for Paul Pogba to shine, maybe not in the eyes of his critics, many of whom show that their understanding of the game is based on Football Manager or FIFA 17. Paul Pogba will grow at United, become the midfielder many have wanted since Roy Keane and Bryan Robson, perhaps not in the same physical and mental states of both players, but being himself, doing what he does best.

Marcos Rojo -v- Leander Dendoncker

Marcos Rojo is very much one of the men of the moment this season. Last season, it seemed like the Argentinian was set to leave the club, but under the leadership of manager Jose Mourinho, Rojo has picked up his form and seemingly secured his place in this Manchester United team. Injury to Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, which seems to be a definite each and every season has strengthened that for Rojo, whose partnership with Eric Bailly seems to be going from strength to strength. Earlier in the season, it was Rojo and Jones who looked a strong partnership, so the Argentinian has been a constant throughout the season. Dealing with the threat of Chelsea at the weekend saw Rojo reign supreme with every opposition attack, with United ensuring that no shots on target were fired towards the goal of David De Gea. Leander Dendoncker, the scorer of the equaliser a week ago could well be a threat to Rojo, but looking how he and his teammates managed to thwart Chelsea in every attempt, I am sure Rojo will be more than confident he can stop this Anderlecht team from taking anything from the Theatre of Dreams.

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

Mourinho on Anderlecht draw: “We have to kill matches”

Manchester United drew 1-1 with Anderlecht in the quarter-final first leg in the UEFA Europa League in Belgium on Thursday evening. Henrikh Mkhitaryan opened the scoring in the 36th minute of the match with United in the driving seat throughout the game. Anderlecht, despite their pressuring, did not really threaten until they scored the equaliser in the final minutes of the match with their first shot on target. United were perhaps lucky to get the away goal they needed, but it will be a fraught affair at Old Trafford in a weeks time with Jose Mourinho’s side looking to earn a semi-final place in the Europa League in their quest to reach the UEFA Champions League next season from the European competition.

Michael Carrick was bitterly disappointed with the draw and the failure of his side to kill their opposition off. Carrick, speaking to BT Sport, said:

“We were so in control but got sloppy, we have to kill teams off. We should have won that game. It’s that little edge that makes the difference in the end, but we’ll look forward to the next game.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was also unhappy with his team’s inability to kill Anderlecht off during the match, which saw their only shot on target reward them with the equaliser. Speaking to BT Sport, Mourinho said:

“We have to kill matches. We had chances, we had control, but in one mistake we were punished. We start the game at Old Trafford in front, but we had all the conditions to kill the game.” 

Marouane Fellaini, frustrated with the result, spoke about the second change United have to win the game at Old Trafford in a weeks time. Speaking to MUTV, the Belgian said:

“Of course we are frustrated with the result. We had the chance to win the game and the chances to score more goals, but we didn’t and they came back into it in the last four minutes. We’re disappointed but we have another game to make it to the semi-final.”

Mourinho on United’s positive result, which could have been so much better:

“The result is positive – to play at home with an advantage, to start the game with an advantage, it is a good result but I think the result should be much better. We can only blame ourselves because we had an easy game to play in the second half and we didn’t play in attack with that instinct. We lost the ball easily too many times, we stopped our counter-attacks because of sloppy decisions, sloppy touches of the ball and then we gave them opportunity to have some counter-attacks. But luckily our defenders were very much in the game and they resolved all of these problems. But if I were a Manchester United defender I would be very upset with the attacking players because they have to kill the game and they didn’t.”

Mourinho in-depth about Manchester United needing to kill off their opposition:

“We have to kill matches. We had chances, control, but we don’t score goals; we risk. There was lots of space to kill, good chances. Lots of chances that we don’t get because of a bad touch, sloppy touch, a flick, bad decisions in the last third. There was a team with good organisation at the back, but one mistake and we were punished.

“In my poor English I cannot find a better word [than sloppy]. You have to play more seriously. Put the performance of two or three of our attacking players together and you squeeze not much juice out of it. Rashford, Lingard, Ibrahimovic, Martial. They were very similar. But the people behind: very solid, very focused. The defenders did the serious work but the people who had to kill the game didn’t. We start the game at Old Trafford in front, but we had all the conditions to kill the game.”

Mourinho on United’s strong defensive performances:

“It was a strong performance from the team, the defensive part. Lingard and Rashford, they did defensively what we asked them to do; they covered some space but when the team is broken on the counter-attack, we cannot lose so many balls. We didn’t miss so many chances; it was about half-chances and chances where the space is there and the time is there but these moments, sometimes we play two-touch not one-touch and lose the ball. Another time one-touch not two-touch. The decisions were wrong. Probably the only one that everything was correct, with the timings, touches and decisions, was Paul’s shot and that was a good save by the keeper. Obviously, this is what happens all season. We have chances but don’t score enough goals.”

Manchester United go head-to-head with Chelsea at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday, which will be the third and final match between the two teams this season. United had lost both previous matches, the 4-0 defeat in the league and the 1-0 defeat in the Emirates FA Cup, which will be twelve games in a row where United have failed to beat their London opposition. After two defeats this season and three points meaning the world to United and probably Tottenham Hotspur, Jose Mourinho’s side must be up for the challenge of causing Antonio Conte’s champions elect some damage in their bid for their fourth Premier League crown, with Spurs the only likely challengers at this moment in time.

Report: Mkhitaryan’s away goal sees United in the driving seat against Anderlecht

Manchester United drew 1-1 in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg away to Anderlecht. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the opening goal in the match on the 36th minute, with many chances before and after coming for United. Paul Pogba was unlucky not to double United’s lead in the second half when he was through almost one-on-one with the goalkeeper, seeing his effort thwarted. Anderlecht scored late in the second half, which will make this tie an eventful one at Old Trafford in a weeks time.

Three changes were made by manager Jose Mourinho ahead of the match with Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, and Marcus Rashford returning to the team ahead of Luke Shaw, Marouane Fellaini, and Luke Shaw. Anderlecht started well, pressuring United from the off, which could have resulted in them finding an early goal, but the chance was miss-kicked. United then had possession for a period of time, advancing into the home sides area with Paul Pogba having an opportunity which was not the best for the visitors. United, after a purple patch, Anderlecht were the team with the chances with Marcus Rashford using his pace and ability to United’s strength, which may just work this evening.

United has a great chance inside the 17th minute of the match with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the box and Jesse Lingard hitting the post, which could have seen the Red Devils in the driving seat of the match. A minute later, Rashford had a shot on goal from distance, which was off target, unfortunately. United had a few more chances following, but just could not get the touches, or get through the defence to break the deadlock. It has been an all United affair since the early chances for the home side. United were firmly in control of the match around the half hour mark, with Anderlecht not really advancing. Henrikh Mkhitaryan put United ahead in the 36th minute of the match after Antonio Valencia crossed into the box, Rashford’s shot was parried off the keeper and the Armenian fired into the back of the net from the angle.

The first half was a strong half for United, who weathered the storm from the Belgian side in the opening minutes of the match, got to grips with the game and started firing their chances, which with Mkhitaryan’s strike, put them ahead and gave them the all-important away goal, which may not be enough with them taking the tie back to Old Trafford in a week’s time. United did well, dealt with any threats and got on with looking for the opportunities to take the game. So far so good for United, 1-0 up at the end of the first half. Mkhitaryan scored his fourth goal in the Europa League this season, scoring against Zorya Luhansk in the group stages, then one against each of Saint-Etienne, FC Rostov and now Anderlecht.

No changes at the start of the second half for either team, but in the opening stages, Michael Carrick was booked for a challenge on Frank Acheampong with the home side given a free-kick in a dangerous area, which did not threaten Sergio Romero or United’s goal. Moments later, Anderlecht were on the attack with Valencia clearing the threat twice, keeping United ahead. Youri Tielemans had a chance to get something from the game, but Valencia again did enough to thwart the effort. Anderlecht seemed more positive and resurgent in the second half, getting the better of United, until at least they get the ball back off them, clearing the threat and trying to start something of their own. In the 55th minute of the match, Mkhitaryan nearly doubled United’s lead after a good touch from Matteo Darmian.

Just before the hour, after weathering the storm again from the home side, United broke through with Mkhitaryan setting Rashford through, for the attack to be thwarted. United, despite the pressure being put on them by Anderlecht, seem to be the better side. Doubling the lead will be a big bit of insurance for Mourinho’s side with all to play for at Old Trafford in a week. In the 63rd minute of the match, Mourinho made his first change with Anthony Martial replacing Jesse Lingard. United, still 1-0 up, remained in a good position in the match with Anderlecht going through a period where fouls were their thing. Nine players on the pitch were a booking away from a suspension, which was dangerous territory for the home side.

In the 75th minute of the match, Mourinho made his second change with Marouane Fellaini replacing Marcus Rashford. Despite the Belgian’s threat at different stages in the match, United were the team in the driving seat, dealing with everything and getting forward on the counter. Anthony Martial was through on the right, passing back to the edge of the box with Fellaini driving a goalward shot, which was thwarted by the Anderlecht goalkeeper. Eight minutes from time, Pogba was through on goal, driving his shot from the angle with Ruben making the save and giving United the corner, which Fellaini tried to score from, with the goalkeeper again stopping his effort. United had this game won or seemed to at this stage of the match. Anderlecht were looking to stop that from happening, though.

Anderlecht got the goal they were looking for through Leander Dendoncker five minutes from time. It might be something of a negative for United in conceding that goal, but it was the only shot on target Anderlecht had through the entire match. United had the away goal, which will be the positive aspect of the match, and they will have to ensure they do not concede at Old Trafford next week. Mourinho made his final change in the 90th minute with Timothy Fosu-Mensah replacing Henrikh Mkhitaryan with three minutes of injury time remaining. It was unfortunate that United conceded a goal, but having that all-important away goal will be the big thing coming from this match, especially as the home side only had one shot on target throughout the match.

Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 36′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Darmian; Carrick, Pogba, Lingard (Martial 63′), Rashford (Fellaini 75′), Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan (Fosu-Mensah 90′)

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Blind, Shaw; Herrera

Bookings: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 24′, Michael Carrick 47′, Timothy Fosu-Mensah 90+2′

Valencia, Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic start against Anderlecht

Manchester United are back in the UEFA Europa League this time fighting for a semi-final place in the competition, going head-to-head with Belgian side Anderlecht. United hold a record with a 10-0 victory over the Belgian side back in 1956, but more recently, matches between the two side have been much closer; the last a 2-1 defeat for United 17 years ago. Anderlecht are a side in good form, at least in the Belgian First Division being unbeaten in their last 17 matches, scoring 67 goals, sitting pretty at the top of the league. United sit fifth in the Premier League, unbeaten in their last 21 league matches, which is good from, especially after the last four seasons of obscurity at the club.

Manchester United:

Romero;

Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Darmian;

Carrick, Pogba;

Mkhitaryan, Lingard, Rashford;

Ibrahimovic

Substitutes:

De Gea; Blind, Fosu-Mensah, Shaw; Herrera, Fellaini; Martial

Anderlecht:

Ruben;

Appiah, Mbodji, Nuytinck, Obradovic;

Bruno, Tielemans, Dendoncker, Stanciu, Acheampong;

Thelin

Substitutes:

Deschacht, Spajic, Chipciu, Capel, Boeckx, Teodorczyk, Hanni

United will have a lot to contend with against the Belgian side this evening, who will be fully up for the challenge of sending the English side packing in the Europa League this season. Six matches have been played between the two sides, United winning four and losing twice. The 10-0 victory, a record set in 1956 will remain in the past for both teams, Anderlecht are much better in the present day, and United have lost a little bit of the team they once were – but that is returning under the management of Jose Mourinho.

Preview: Tielemans and Teodorczyk stand in the way of United in Belgium

Anderlecht -v- Manchester United

Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Anderlecht, Brussels

UEFA Europa League 2016/17

Thursday 13th April 2017; KO 20:05 BST

Live on BT Sport 2HD

Manchester United travel to Belgium to face Anderlecht in the UEFA Europa league quarter-final first leg on Thursday evening. United are in good form at this moment in time, avoiding defeat in 21 Premier League matches this season, last being defeated by Chelsea in October. In other competitions, Chelsea again knocked United out of the Emirates FA Cup, with a defeat in the EFL Cup second leg against Hull City, before that, two defeats in the Europa League group stage to both Feyenoord and Fenerbahce – both of those away from home. United have lost just seven times in all competitions this season, which is not bad going, but in the league, the main thing hampering them this season is the inability to win, with twelve draws in total, nine of those at Old Trafford. Anderlecht will be the team to beat for United, a team in good form both domestically and on the European stage. René Weiler’s side sits two points clear at the top of the Belgian First Division ahead of Club Brugge, the team United beat, twice, in the UEFA Champions League play-off last season.

There are two players for United to keep their eyes on against Anderlecht; Łukasz Teodorczyk and Youri Tielemans. Between them, they have scored 46 goals in all competitions this season, but there is a chance the Polish international may not play due to recovering from a shoulder injury sustained this weekend. Tielemans, though, will be a player to keep a check on as he is one of the promising young players coming out of Belgium currently. United have their own promising players to utilise, though, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Marcus Rashford et al looking to be involved in the match which could put United just 90 minutes away from a semi-final place in Europe’s secondary competition, which could keep them in with a chance of earning a UEFA Champions League place next season – which still offers them two chances – both of which need to be taken. Jose Mourinho will play a strong side, being that this is a major chance for United. That seems to have been the case over the last few matches, with play rotation key, especially with a tough match against Chelsea at Old Trafford coming on Sunday afternoon, one United should want to win.

Match Officials: Has Felix Brych been involved in Manchester United matches before?

Felix Brych has been named as the referee for the match at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium on Thursday evening. Brych is an experienced German referee and has been involved in four matches in which Manchester United have played, all being in the UEFA Champions League; the 0-0 draw against Olympique Marseille in 2011, the 2-0 victory over Oţelul Galaţi in 2011 in which Nemanja Vidic was sent off, the 3-0 victory over Sporting Braga in 2012 and the 1-1 draw with Real Madrid in 2013. The assistant referees have been named as Mark Borsch and Stefan Lupp. The fourth official will be Rafael Foltyn and the additional assistant referees will be Bastian Dankert and Marco Fritz.

Form: Two teams in good form will be the main ingredients for a good match?

Manchester United: Jose Mourinho’s side are in good form at this stage of the season, winning three and drawing two of their last five matches. United are unbeaten in 21 matches in the Premier League this season – losing three games in the league in total. Four other matches have been lost – two in the group stages of the Europa League, one in the EFL Cup and one in the Emirates FA Cup. United were boosted by Arsenal’s inability to win matches with a 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace on Monday evening, keeping United three points clear of them in the league, putting some daylight in the race to the top four this season. United will need to beat Chelsea on Sunday in order to keep that distance between them and Arsenal, which needs to be done.

Anderlecht: René Weiler’s side are top of the Belgian First Division, two points clear of Club Brugge. Anderlecht has had a good season, seeing the likes of Teodorczyk and Tielemans score 46 goals between them, which could thwart United on Thursday evening, especially with the Belgian side not being scared of them. Anderlecht have lost eight matches in total this season, one of those was against Rostov, United’s Russian opposition in the last round of the Europa League – this was in the Champions League qualification round with the Belgian side drawing the first leg and losing the second. Weiler’s side will be looking to continue their success this season, and keeping a clean sheet at home could be key to that.

The road to the Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Europa League:

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. Drawing Anderlecht in the quarter-finals would be a tough tie for Jose Mourinho’s side.

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.

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

Manchester United: 28 – Zlatan Ibrahimović, 10 – Juan Mata, 8 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford, 7 – Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, 5 – Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, 3 – Marouane Fellaini, 2 – Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling, 1 – Daley Blind, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Antonio Valencia

Anderlecht: 28 – Łukasz Teodorczyk, 18 – Youri Tielemans, 10 – Sofiane Hanni, 8 – Nicolae Stanciu, 5 – Frank Acheampong, Massimo Bruno, Alexandru Chipciu, 3 – Leander Dendoncker, 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: Antonio Valencia to return for resurgent Red Devils?

Antonio Valencia could make his return to the starting XI after sitting out the last two matches, not down to injury. The Ecuadorian is one of the players of the season and was due a rest, especially with some big matches coming up for the Red Devils. David De Gea has a hip problem, which is not a big deal according to Mourinho, but Sergio Romero may retain his position in the team which heads to Belgium. United will be without Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Juan Mata through long-term injury and captain Wayne Rooney could remain out of the squad through injury too. Andy Nájar is out of action for the hosts, as could top scorer Łukasz Teodorczyk who seemed to suffer a shoulder injury at the weekend. More will be known after Wednesday evening’s press conference after the team have arrived in Belgium.

Previous Meetings: A 10-0 thrashing of Anderlecht back in 1956 and two away defeats

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 three away matches played – both the recent ones.

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

Predicted Score:

Anderlecht 1-1 Manchester United

copyright: JW