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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Mourinho's United can march into Europa semis

Europe the priority for full-strength Red Devils

Henrikh Mkhitaryan nets Manchester United's goal in the first leg
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Europa League quarter-final second leg
BT Sport 2, 8.05pm Thursday

The Europa League has become the top priority for Manchester United and a full-strength Red Devils side can march into the semi-finals by defeating Anderlecht at Old Trafford.

Anderlecht came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw in Brussels last Thursday – much to the delight of their fans, who were in buoyant mood at the final whistle - but the balance of the tie remains firmly in favour of United, who are no bigger than 1-9 to advance and 7-1 to be eliminated.

A 0-0 draw would suffice for United but a low-scoring outcome seems unlikely and the value call is to side with United to win and both teams to score at 11-5.

United have had to show patience against defensive opposition on European nights but it could be different against ambitious Anderlecht, whose best players are in midfield and attack.

The Belgian side took a long time to get going in the first leg but their performance improved after star striker Lukasz Teodorczyk came off the bench in the 75th minute.

Teodorczyk had been struggling with an injury in the build-up to the game but is expected to play a more prominent role at Old Trafford as the visitors go in search of an away goal.

United will have to keep a close eye on the Pole, who has netted seven Europa League goals this season, and must be aware of the threat posed by Anderlecht attacking midfielder Youri Tielemans, scorer of 18 goals in all competitions this term.

Teenager Tielemans turns 20 next month but already captains the side and is attracting interest from some of Europe's elite clubs.

The great challenge for Teodorcyzk and Tielemans is to produce their best football in arguably the biggest match of their careers.

However, the threat from Anderlecht is significant and they can score an away goal for the eighth consecutive time on their European travels.

A bigger problem for the visitors is trying to contain a United attack reinforced by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swede has failed to find the net in his last four Europa League outings but is a big-match player and likely to flourish now the competition is getting serious.

He is just 5-2 to score the opening goal and but looks a more reliable bet than 4-1 chance Marcus Rashford, who has scored three goals in his last 18 appearances.

Rashford notched the opener against Chelsea when he enjoyed playing in a more central role.

United's failure to make a better fist of the title race has often been attributed to their over-reliance on Ibrahimovic but the return to goalscoring form of Rashford and a positive few months for Henrikh Mkhitaryan (six goals in his last 12 appearances) are welcome developments.

United will need to take further strides to challenge the top clubs in England but are playing well enough to tackle Anderlecht and should emerge victorious in an entertaining contest.

Manchester Utd win and both teams to score
1pt 11-5 Betfair, Betway, Hills

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Team news
Man Utd
Juan Mata (groin) is out for the rest of the season and Michael Carrick hopes to shake off a knock sustained in Sunday's 2-0 win at home to Chelsea. Wayne Rooney (ankle) is a doubt.

Lukasz Teodorczyk returned from injury as a second-half substitute last Thursday and should be pushing for a start. Honduran right-back Andy Najar is still recovering from an injury sustained while on international duty last month.

Key stat
Anderlecht have scored in all of their seven European away games this season.

United have had to show patience against defensive opposition on European nights but it could be different against ambitious Anderlecht
E.W. Terms
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