Crunch games keep coming thick and fast for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United as the Reds host unfancied Anderlecht in the Europa League.
Just a few days after a “special win” against his former side and league leaders Chelsea, the self-appointed “Special One” looks to take the next step towards European glory at Old Trafford against the Belgian underdogs.
Firm Europa League favourites, United will be kicking themselves – only coming back with a 1-1 draw from Brussels, despite dominating for long periods. Squandering a host of chances in their 14th draw of the season, the Reds conceded an unnecessary equaliser with only five minutes to play after Henrik Mkhitaryan’s opener had given United a crucial advantage.
The gifted Armenian Mkhitaryan, rested on Sunday against Chelsea, is a decent 5-1 to score the first goal again at Old Trafford with Paddy Power.
Under 2.5 goals has been the play in United’s last four games in the competition and it can pay fruition again at 67-50 with Marathon. Anderlecht will look to keep things tight for as long as possible, while United, despite improving under Mourinho, are not known for goals galore or expansive football. The Portuguese is a results-oriented coach and knows that a narrow win or even a goalless draw will do the job for United. We saw exactly that in the last 32 against another plucky underdog in Rostov, when after drawing 1-1 in Russia, United scraped through 1-0 at home in the return.
Buoyed by Sunday’s superb win against the league leaders, United are 2-7 massive favourites to win on Thursday, having won all five of their Old Trafford games in Europe this season, conceding just a single goal. In fact, the Reds are unbeaten in 16 home games in total in Europe (W13 D3) even going back to the dark days of the David Moyes era.
With a top four spot in the Premier League looking precarious, winning the Europa League remains a priority for Mourinho this season, even giving top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic a breather on Sunday against Chelsea. The King Swede is 13-5 favourite to break the deadlock at the “Theatre of Dreams” on Thursday.
While Anderlecht have absolutely nothing to lose at Old Trafford, it’s hard to see the Belgians securing a victory, winless in 15 trips to England (D2 L13) over the years, including a 10-0 thumping in their first meeting way back in 1956 at Maine Road (Manchester City’s former home). This remains Anderlecht’s heaviest loss and United’s biggest win in Europe.
Obviously, it will not be that comprehensive for United this time around and expect the Belgian side to dig in with a punt on Anderlecht handicap +2 at 21-20 with Coral looking a sound proposition at odds against.