WILLIE Duncan (@Willie_Duncan) takes up the controls as Manchester United travel to Belgium to face Anderlecht on Thursday night.
Anderlecht v Manchester United | Thursday 20:05 | BT Sport
Jose Mourinho’s side are hunting Europa League glory and Manchester United’s latest assignment sees them travel to Belgium to face Anderlecht.
The Belgian league leaders have certainly put together a decent run of form ahead of this fixture; Rene Weiler’s charges have lost just one of their last 16 matches on home soil – a 3-2 defeat against Saint-Etienne at the group stages of this competition.
Furthermore, Anderlecht have kept a clean sheet in six of their last seven home games.
Cause for Anderlecht concern
The fact, though, that the Belgian league leaders shipped three on their own patch against Saint-Etienne must surely give cause for concern.
The Ligue 1 side barely laid a glove on Manchester United when the two teams met in the last 32, with Mourinho’s side romping to a supremely comfortable 4-0 aggregate win.
United are fighting for the top-four on the domestic front and they swept past Sunderland on Sunday, winning 3-0 against David Moyes’ beleaguered Black Cats – a result that brought relief to a United side that has struggled to get results in recent weeks.
United eye Europa success
In normal circumstances, United may have had one eye on Sunday’s showdown with table-toppers Chelsea at Old Trafford but Mourinho has identified success on this stage as a very viable route back into the Champions League for United.
A polished, professional performance, then, can be expected from the Premier League side and, given that they are huge odds-on to qualify for the semi-final stage of the competition, it is somewhat surprising to see the men from Manchester available at such a seemingly generous price here.
Anderlecht will feel that they are capable of making their mark; after all, they are the second highest-scoring side left in the competition, having chalked up 21 goals en route to their first major European quarter-final clash in 20 years.
Red Devils deserve our backing
United, though, are rock solid; they boast the most impressive defensive record of the teams still standing in the competition, a record which is due in no small part to the fact that Mourinho’s side have conceded just once in their last six Europa League ties.
A match against Manchester United looks likely to be a bridge too far for the Belgians and, given the chasm in quality between the teams, backing Mourinho’s men at evens (William Hill) to take a first-leg lead could offer punters a path to profit.
Anderlecht v Manchester United – Manchester United to win (1/1 William Hill)