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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

United's stars to shine bright in Europa League

Mourinho's men can grab vital victory over Anderlecht

Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic
1 of 1

Europa League quarter-final first leg
BT Sport 2, 8.05pm Thursday

The Europa League offers Manchester United their best route into next season's Champions League and they should be able to take another successful step towards that goal with a victory away to Anderlecht in their quarter-final first leg.

United have become a warm order to win this competition and deserve to be rated strong tournament favourites given this lacks the depth of past years, a point proven by the fact Lyon are considered next best with a quarter of the field from Belgium.

Comparing teams from different leagues is never easy but at least United and Anderlecht have played against two of the same sides this season with matches against St-Etienne and Rostov.

United beat St-Etienne 4-0 over two legs, while Anderlecht collected one point from two games against the French side in the group stage but it is worth remembering the Belgians selected a weakened team for one of those fixtures.

However, Anderlecht also went out of the Champions League preliminaries to Rostov and United beat them 2-1 on aggregate in a tie that was much more comfortable than the final score suggests.

Jose Mourinho showed in that Rostov clash he was in no mood to mess around with the team selection and the big guns are likely to be used once again despite Sunday's fixture with Chelsea looming large for the Red Devils.

Chelsea are the only side to have beaten United in their last 16 matches, while the leaders were the last team to lower their colours in the Premier League way back on October 23.

Draws have held United back from launching a sustained bid for the Premier League's top four but this is a step down in class and a narrow away success looks the most likely outcome.

Mourinho is a pragmatic coach who is never interested in putting on a show which may help to explain the draws and why four of the last six wins have been by a single goal.

Anderlecht's best European result of the season came in seeing off Zenit via the away-goal rule following a 3-3 draw in their last-32 tie.

Over the course of the 180 minutes Zenit averaged 66.5 per cent possession and won the shots on target 12-7 only to suffer last-gasp heartbreak as Anderlecht scored with their sole effort at goal in St Petersburg.

Anderlecht, top in Belgium, don't face the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a regular basis and the leading hitman domestically, 20-goal Lukasz Teodorczyk, is a major doubt.

Teenage midfielder Youri Tielemans is a class act but outside of him there is not a huge amount to concern United.

Man Utd to win by one goal
1pt 45-17 188Bet

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Team news
Lukasz Teodorczyk is a major doubt with a shoulder injury and is unlikely to start.

Man Utd
David de Gea and Antonio Valencia have returned to the squad but Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have not travelled to Belgium.

Key stat
Manchester United have won five of their last six European matches. 

Jose Mourinho showed in that Rostov clash he was in no mood to mess around with the team selection
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