MANCHESTER UNITED continue their Europa League campaign on Thursday night against Partizan Belgrade at Old Trafford. Chris Bland (@BlandC_1996) shares his betting thoughts.
Manchester United v Partizan Belgrade | Thursday 7th November 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport
Manchester United host Partizan Belgrade knowing that a win on Thursday night will see them secure qualification from Group L with two games to spare.
Victory in Serbia two weeks ago sparked a run of three consecutive away victories, however they were brought back down to earth with a 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth on the south coast last Saturday Saturday, courtesy of Joshua King’s acrobatic winner.
The difficulties in breaking down compact defences reared its head once again, as Andreas Pereira struggled in the number 10 role, and Bournemouth defended deep to guard against the pacey front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Dan James.
Mustering only four shots on-target and an Expected Goals (xG) output of 0.64, United quickly ran out of ideas, and could be in for a similar showing once again against Partizan. Partizan are expected to line-up in a similar compact fashion, and after only managing one shot on-target in the previous meeting – Martial’s winning penalty – it could point us in the direction of another tight affair.
A lengthy injury list, including Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Luke Shaw, means Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will have a balancing act as to how to manage the squad ahead of Sunday’s game against Brighton, as well as making sure there’s enough attacking talent to break the Belgrade defence.
Youngsters Brandon Williams, James Garner and Mason Greenwood could be given the opportunity to impress once again, whilst the likes of Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard may also be given another opportunity to impress.
Partizan are in third in the group, a point behind AZ Alkmaar, and head to Old Trafford knowing a point will massively boost their qualification hopes. Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of Vojvodina, who sit one place above them in the league, will give them confidence, with goals coming from Bibras Natkho (2), Sasa Zdjelar and Umar Sadiq.
Partizan weren’t without their chances in the reverse fixture, with Sadiq in particular impressing and Takuma Asano showing his potential on the break, but the final product was often lacking, and highlighted the gulf in class between both sides.
Patience key for United
With Partizan looking to sit in and frustrate United, particularly wary of the threat that the pacey attackers may pose, I am expecting United to have to be patient. The Red Devils enjoyed 59% possession, completing 434 passes in Serbia without particularly threatening the Partizan goal bar, with only 95 passes completed in the opposition’s final third. The impetus will be Solksjaer side to come out and dominate in better areas, and will need to increase their tempo in attack if they are to do so.
Second guessing Solksjaer’s line up will be tough, however youngster Williams stood out in the previous meeting, and will have a key role from a creative point of view. Always looking to bomb forward in attack, the young Englishman will offer a constant outlet out wide to United’s attacks, and this could free up space centrally for the attacker situated on the left.
Whether Solksjaer reverts back to his back five awaits to be seen, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see United focus their attacks down the left and utilise the young full backs energy. United will look to get in behind the Partizan backline by utilising these wide areas, and against Astana where they employed a similar tactic, United racked up 12 corners.
I can see a similar story once again at Old Trafford, and priced at 10/11, Over 6.5 corners (Marathon) appeals. At time of writing this was the only price available, so checking back closer to the start better value may be available, and scope to push the total higher.
United’s struggles to break teams down, particularly from open play, don’t look to be going away quickly, and as shown in the home game against Astana, they can often run out of ideas quickly, especially the youngsters when the pressure is on.
United should still have enough to break down a Partizan defence, and will have to be wary of their counter attacking threat, however priced at 10/11 (SkyBet), Manchester United to win and Under 3.5 Goals takes my fancy.