Back Man United to edge cagey affair against resolute Rostov
Crunch games keep coming thick and fast for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United as the Reds host unfancied Russian side Rostov in the Europa League. Three days after Mou was baited as a “Judas” by ungrateful Chelsea fans, the self-appointed “Special One” looks to take the next step towards European glory at Old Trafford.
Steeped in a proud European history, the Europa League and its forerunner the Uefa Cup, remains the only major European trophy, United have never bagged. Locked in sixth place in the Premier League for what feels like an eternity, Mou will see winning the Europa League as his side’s best chance of sealing qualification for the Champions League.
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United have won all four home games this season in this competition, scoring 12 goals in the process, conceding just one and will be buoyed by the return of their Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Zlatan missed the FA Cup loss at Chelsea after his errant elbow led to a three-game suspension. However, that’s only a domestic ban and he set up Henrik Mkhitaryan’s crucial goal in Russia, which leaves United in the box seat against the Russians on home soil. The King Swede will be intent on keeping his dream alive of playing in the Europa League final in the Swedish capital Stockholm in May.
After six straight victories, United are on a dip without a win in three games, including the tepid FA Cup loss at Chelsea and the 1-1 draw 3000km away in deepest, darkest Russia. Despite looking likely winners, the Reds are excessively short at 2-7 with Coral and BetFred so we go looking for value elsewhere.
Zlatan, top United scorer in the comp with five goals in eight appearances, is as usual favourite for the first goal with 27-10 with BetVictor, while Marcus Rashford made a miraculous recovery to be fit for the FA Cup tie at Chelsea is 19-5 with the same firm. Wayne Rooney at 4-1 across the board isn’t much value as the England captain isn’t guaranteed a start after injury; preference should be given to the gifted Mkhitaryan at 5-1.
Seriously depleted Rostov are a realistic 16-1 to pull off a shock win. Aleksandr Gatskan and Timofei Kalachev are both suspended, while Vladimir Granat suffered a broken collarbone in the first leg. Rostov are capable on their own patch but have not won in their last five European away fixtures (D3 L2), including a 5-0 defeat at Bayern Munich in the CL group stages.
Nevertheless, I expect the Russian side to dig in against a United side who have gone off the boil in recent weeks. Therefore, a punt on the handicap +2 on the Russians at 21-20 with Blacktype looks a decent proposition. With Mourinho knowing a narrow win or even a goalless draw (13-1 betstars) will do the job, I fancy another cagey affair, with under 2.5 goals at 11-10 at betstars the best value.