Just when you thought the season was taking a turn for the better with a positive start to the year of 2016, Manchester United produced a lacklustre performance in a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Sunderland at the weekend. The defeat has placed even more scrutiny on the future of Louis Van Gaal, if that was even possible and it has also placed much more emphasis on the importance of this game. With the Top 4 seemingly out of reach, winning the Europa League seems to be the best chance that the red devils have of getting in to next seasons Champions League which is important when it comes to revenue and attracting big names.
The task that faces United in this round could theoretically be a lot tougher. They could have had further to travel and played tougher opposition. However, we shouldn’t forget that this team knocked out Southampton from this competition earlier on in the year over two legs and should not be underestimated, which seemed to be one of the issues with last weekend’s opposition.
News broke in recent days that Wayne Rooney has suffered a knee injury and will be out for between six weeks and two months, disappointing for the player and fans alike, as he was in fine form in 2016, with almost a goal every game. On a personal level he must be very anxious to get out and play, only being 5 short of the all-time United scoring record, held by Sir Bobby Charlton, and with the importance Louis Van Gaal clearly places on his captain he must be devastated by the news. It is yet to be seen whether LVG decided to move Martial up top and bring in Memphis in the wide area, or whether he brings in Will Keane to play the role vacated by Rooney. Personally, I would prefer the latter, Keane has shown great promise in the youth team, and if he can bring any level of finishing that is close to what he showed in the youth set up, then he should be a positive addition to the matchday squad. Rooney is not the only absentee, with LVG confirming that as many as 12 first team squad players are injured, these being Rooney, Shaw, Darmian, Borthwick-Jackson, Jones, Valencia, Rojo, Schweinsteiger, Januzaj, Fellaini, Varela and Young. Much has been made of the state of our current squad, but I don’t know any team in the Premier League that could deal well with that extensive list of injuries. All these injuries mean we could see a start for Donald Love, with Will Keane and Ander Herrera also possibly in contention for a rare starting place.
Moving on to this evenings game in Denmark, FC Midtjyland haven’t played a competitive game for two months, whether this means they are fresh or ring rusty we will have to wait and see. They will be missing their star midfielder in Jakob Poulsen through suspension, and expectations around Denmark aren’t that high for this game. In all competitions the Danish outfit have won just one in ten, which is a record even worse than the current form of Manchester United, which will offer further encouragement to the reds, that not only can they get an away goal, but they should be able to bring back a lead to Old Trafford for the second leg.
FC Midtjyland: DLLD
Manchester United: LDWW
Anthony Martial – With the absence of Wayne Rooney well noted, there is going to be even more importance placed on the French youngster. Whether he plays out wide or through the middle, his pace is bound to cause problems for FC Midtjyland and I see him grabbing a goal this evening.
Martin Pusic – The Midtjyland front man has scored 3 in 5 this campaign and proves the biggest threat in an otherwise poor team. Smalling and Blind should be able to cope with him but if they switch off he has the finishing ability to punish the reds.
Even in poor form and without captain Wayne Rooney, United should have too much for a team that have won just 1 in 10 in a poor league, I expect them to bring back an advantage for the second leg and a comfortable 2-0 win to somewhat ease pressure temporarily on Louis Van Gaal.
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