MANCHESTER United make the trip to Denmark to face Midtjylland in the Europa League. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) shares his thoughts here.
FC Midtjylland v Manchester United | Thursday 18:00
Did you know it’s three years to the week since Manchester United earned a superb draw at the Bernabeu in their ultimately fruitless Champions League Last 16 tie.
With FC Midtjylland on Thursday and Shrewsbury up on Monday in the FA Cup the current state of the club doesn’t look at all healthy and it must hurt the fans deeply to be missing from the Champions League knockout stage for the second year running.
More disappointment arrived on Saturday when they lost to 19th place Sunderland in the league. It was a result that stung badly and leaves them with an uphill task to return to the Champions League next season.
Here on Thursday night they make their first appearance in the Europa League for four years as they travel to Denmark to play the fantastically named FC Midtylland.
The Danish side have become famous (in this country) for their alignment with Brentford owner Matthew Benham and his reliance on data and stats to further their progress.
This approach appears to be working as they won their first ever Danish league title last season and have managed to negotiate all the way through to the Last 32 of this competition.
The club were unfortunate to lose out in their Champions League qualifying round to APOEL Nicosia but have kicked on from that and knocked out a half-cooked Southampton side in the early Europa League rounds before finishing second in their group.
Group D in which they were placed was a fairly modest section to be honest. The brilliance of Napoli was far too much for the three other sides and the Danes were involved in a scrap with Club Brugge (nowhere near as good last season) and Legia Warsaw (similarly not as strong as the year before) for the second qualifying spot. They succeeded.
Heavy home and away defeats at the hands of Napoli where countered by the fact they beat the other two sides. Legia were beaten 1-0 at home while Midtylland went to Belgium and beat Club Brugge there.
The English side do seem a level up from these type of results but one worrying concern is their continually lengthy injury list. Wayne Rooney, one of very few positives for the club in 2016, could be out for up to six weeks and that will be a damning blow for the club.
In terms of taking the competition seriously, Manchester United have to. Or rather Louis Van Gaal has to. A good run in this will give the club something to cheer about as Spring arrives.
I think they should have enough class in this match to win. They’ll be angry after Saturday and their opponents haven’t played a competitive game in 2016.
Even without Rooney I’ll back Van Gaal’s side at a standout 3/4 with Coral and take them to win to nil at 2-0 and 2-1 at chunkier odds as well.
FC Midtjylland v Manchester United – Manchester United to win (3/4 Coral)
FC Midtjylland v Manchester United – Manchester United to win 2-0 (13/2 BetVictor)
FC Midtjylland v Manchester United – Manchester United to win 2-1 (17/2 BetVictor)
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