It’s the penultimate game of the group stage in the Europa League and Manchester United welcome Feyenoord to Old Trafford, where a win for either side would almost virtually ensure their progress to the knockout stages.
The Red Devils have had a slightly disappointing start in Europe not unlike their domestic campaign so far – with two wins at home and two defeats away from Manchester. Their last defeat in this competition came at Istanbul – a woeful performance from start to finish reflecting on their recent struggles in European tournaments particularly away from home. Initially Mourinho’s United gave an impression that they were not motivated enough to go further in this competition and had their sights on a top four finish but now their Premier League form over the last two months (2 wins in the last 9) suggests that they might have to change that stance if they are to participate in the next year’s Champions League.
Feyenoord have endured a blip in form themselves yet they find themselves at the top of the Eredivisie standings. The Dutch side have managed to win only two of the last six games in all competitions and their last encounter away at Luhansk ended in a 1-1 stalemate, but they did get one of the results of their season at home against Manchester United in the opening fixture of the group. A repeat of that result could mean another three points and a berth in the round of 32 and with the next game coming against Fenerbahce at home, it will be interesting to see how manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst will set his side up at Old Trafford.
The most intriguing piece of team news from Mourinho concerns a certain Armenian international. Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be involved according to the manager and hence the 27-year old is expected to start the game on Thursday while the Portuguese manager is expected to field a strong side with few changes knowing the significance of getting all three points against the Dutch giants.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst is also expected to field their full strength line-up for the visit of Old Trafford and they have no injury concerns ahead of Thursday’s big encounter.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in 13 European home games (W10 D3) since a 2-1 reverse to Real Madrid in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League round of 16.
- Feyenoord are without a victory in their last three European away fixtures.
- United’s 15 encounters with Dutch opposition have ended W7 D3 L5 (W5 D1 L1 at home). Having won their first five home games against Dutch teams, United are now without a victory in two – a 2-1 loss to Ajax in 2012 and a 0-0 draw with PSV Eindhoven in 2015.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Manchester United
After a big move, probably the biggest in his career, Mkhitaryan came to Old Trafford with a lot of promise on the back of a fantastic campaign for Dortmund where he scored and assisted over 50 goals. But he has had a difficult time at the club since, struggling to stay fit and according to the manager, adapt to the rigours of English football. He has been a part of the 18-man squad only five times this campaign in 19 games but with his surefire inclusion on Thursday, all eyes will be on the attacking midfielder to prove his doubters wrong in a game United absolutely need to win.
Nicolai Jørgensen – Feyenoord FC
Jørgensen has been the goal machine for Feyenoord this season – with an impressive 8 goals to his name in 13 appearances in the Eredivisie. The 25-year old has also made his mark in the Europa League scoring twice in four appearances and the Danish forward will be desperate to do it at a big stage like Old Trafford. Feyenoord may be joint top with Fenerbahce with 7 points on board but they have not been prolific in the competition scoring only 3 times in 4 games – 3 shy of Thursday’s opponents. But Jørgensen can change all of that if he could replicate his form in the Dutch League at the Theatre of Dreams.
It’s a massive game for both sides but United certainly have got more to lose on Thursday. Expect them to build on a good performance against Arsenal and score a couple of goals to get maximum points.
Manchester United 3-1 Feyenoord