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The second leg of the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League quarter-finals take place on Thursday night and the tournament favourites play host to Anderlecht at Old Trafford.
With the score level at 1-1 following the first leg, Anderlecht will feel they are one away goal from causing their illustrious opponents plenty of problems. However, the reality is the Belgian league leaders face a difficult task in Manchester and are up against it.
Manchester United dominated much of the first leg in Brussels last week and should have wrapped up the tie in that match. Having taken the lead through Henrikh Mkhitaryan on 36 minutes, Jose Mourinho’s men had plenty of opportunities to put the game to bed. Chances went begging and the feeling was Anderlecht could create one good chance and get back in the game.
With just 4 minutes remaining, Leander Dendoncker made a run into the penalty area and buried an excellent header beyond Sergio Romero. In truth, Anderlecht didn’t deserve to finish the match on level terms but Manchester United’s inability to finish teams off came back to haunt them once more and this is a problem Mourinho needs to eradicate quickly.
Any disappointment from drawing the match in Belgium was soon forgotten on the weekend, as Manchester United produced one of their best performances this season to see off Premier League leaders Chelsea. Not only that but with Zlatan Ibrahimovic only playing a small part of the game off the bench and Mkhitaryan playing no part at all, both players will come back into the team at full fitness for this game.
Anderlecht continued their own good run of form by winning 1-0 at KV Oostende in the Belgian First Division. That result means it is now seven games without defeat in all competitions for Anderlecht and three wins in a row on the road.
However, this will be their biggest test of the season and Manchester United are proving extremely tough to beat. The Red Devils have lost just one of their previous eighteen matches in all competitions which was at Chelsea in the FA Cup. Mourinho’s team are unbeaten at Old Trafford in their last twenty-six matches and will be determined to remain undefeated at home until the end of the season.
Trends show its seven games without defeat at home in the Europa League for Manchester United. A repeat of six of their previous seven home results in the competition will be good to see them go through and they have conceded only one goal in their last five Europa League games at Old Trafford.
This underlines the task facing Anderlecht tonight, who have failed to defeat Zenit Saint Petersburg, Mainz and Saint Etienne away from home in the Europa League this season. Their toughest game to date in the tournament came at Zenit and they lost 3-1.
At least manager, Rene Weiler, can call upon top goalscorer Lukasz Teodorczyk, who was forced to start on the bench in the first leg. Manchester United are still missing Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Juan Mata plus Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard are doubtful.
However, Manchester United have the squad to cope with these absentees and although a demolition job on Anderlecht is unlikely, the Red Devils should have more than enough to win this game by a comfortable margin.