The Europa League isn’t the competition that Manchester United want to be playing in and embarrassing defeats like the one they had in the first leg in Denmark only highlight that. However, they are going to struggle to qualify for the Champions League for the next few seasons, which means that the Europa League could be their best route into the competition. The secondary European competition has never been respected in England, and that needs to change, as we have been struggling in Europe and our coefficient continues to drop. If the Premier League wants to be considered as the best league in the world, our clubs need to dominate both European competitions.
Manchester United haven’t been given the best schedule as they have to play three matches this week, due to FA Cup commitments. They will be grateful that their European match is at home this week to decrease the amount of travelling they have to do. Their top four hopes are growing smaller and they should target the two competitions they remain in. If they win one or both of the tournaments, then this season could be considered a success for the club, despite their poor league form. Manchester United need to be playing Champions League football and it doesn’t matter how they get it.
FC Midtjylland were really good in the first leg and were unlucky to win by only one goal. Sergio Romero was man of the match on the night, which showed just how unlucky the Danish club were. The Danes managed six shots on target and played effective counter attacking football with Pione Sisto being a particular threat to the United goal. They will aim to play a similar style of play on Thursday and will be confident they can get at least one away goal.
- Manchester United have never lost at this stage in the competition, with their last time in the competition being in the 2011/12 season. They beat Ajax at this stage.
- FC Midtjylland have won more matches against the current Premier League top six this season than Manchester United have.
The Frenchman is one of the brightest talents in the European game and he has had a good first season in the Premier League. He is likely to grow quickly over the next few seasons and he has the potential to become one of the best players in the league. The next few weeks will be huge for the 20-year-old, as he is going to be leading the line in the absence of captain Wayne Rooney. The former Monaco forward has scored ten times so far in all competitions, and he will be looking to score a few more before the end of the season. He will relish playing in his preferred position in the coming weeks as he has had to play on the left for large portions of the season. His pace and movement are two of the best parts to his game, and he causes defenders a lot of problems as he is always looking to get into space and influence the game. Martial can get in behind, but he also looks to drop deeper to receive the ball, which makes him an interesting attacker to watch. He is vital to Manchester United’s chances as he has been the most consistent attacker in the squad and they’ll need him to perform if they are to qualify for the next round.
Pione Sisto is a very talented winger, who has attracted interest from teams across Europe. He may not be well known in England, but his goal last week has brought him onto people’s radars and they shouldn’t be surprised at how threatening he can be. This season hasn’t been as good as he would have wanted, as he has only scored two league goals in 13 matches. His form in the Europa League has been better, with the winger managing to score three times in just six games. Sisto has plenty of pace and skill, which makes him a danger in the final third and his direct style of play caused Manchester United plenty of problems last week. He has been linked with both Manchester City and Arsenal in recent months, while he was one of the standout players at last summer’s U21 European championships. The winger adds variety to the attack, as he is always willing to try and beat defenders, while he has the ability to do the spectacular. Sisto is a player we will be hearing a lot more of in the coming years as his time at FC Midtjylland look numbered.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was injured on Monday, which means Joe Riley could make his first start. Will Keane and Jesse Lingard were also injured in the game and are likely to miss out on Thursday. David de Gea could return, but Sergio Romero is likely to continue until the Arsenal match. Marouane Fellaini, Matteo Darmian, Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Phil Jones and Adnan Januzaj are all likely to miss out.
Petter Andersson is the only player who is on the injured list for FC Midtjylland and they are likely to field the same eleven as they did in Denmark.
Although Manchester United struggled in Denmark and they continue to suffer with a horrendous injury list, I’d expect them to qualify on Thursday. In the likes of Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata, they have quality players, who should be too much for FC Midtjylland. Louis van Gaal needs to stay in this competition as it is his best route into the Champions League, and he won’t underestimate the Danish club, who have already showed they won’t roll over for the decorated English side.
Manchester United 3-1 FC Midtjylland