Manchester United vs FC Copenhagen | Monday 10th August 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
The Europa League quarter-finals start in Germany with favourites to lift the trophy, Man Utd, facing FC Copenhagen in Cologne.
It’s three years since the Red Devils last lifted a trophy albeit this one when they beat Ajax 2-0 in Stockholm.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side eased passed LASK Linz 7-1 on aggregate following Wednesday’s 2-1 second-leg win that saw key players rested and rotated ahead of this mini-tournament.
That wasn’t the case for FC Copenhagen, who had to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit to reach the last eight of a major European competition for the first time.
21-year-old Jonas Wind starred on the night in the Danish capital with two goals and an assist in the 3-0 victory. His goal in the fourth minute restored parity before two second-half goals saw them progress.
Ståle Solbakken’s side are stretched – they only named seven of a possible 12 subs on Wednesday. Striker Michael Santos is suspended, while there are injury concerns to Nicolaj Thomsen, Viktor Fischer and Ragnar Sigurdsson, while Dame N’Doye didn’t extend his contract.
Finding the value
Man Utd are as short as 2/9 in places to win this in 90 minutes, with the best price at 2/7. It’s hard to argue against those with the firepower they possess and the added rest to key players since the end of the domestic campaign.
They finished strongly to take third place and that came on the back of a 14-match unbeaten run (W9, D5). Despite the question marks over some of their defending and David de Gea’s errors, they kept nine clean sheets in that run. Plus, they’ve kept seven shutouts in 10 Europa League matches.
In this competition so far, United have allowed just an Expected Goals Against of 0.79xGA, which shows how strong they’ve been. And, with Copenhagen likely to set up in a 4-2-3-1, which can revert to a 4-5-1, then it could see youngster Mikkel Kaufmann ploughing a lone furrow up front.
That would increase the likelihood of a Man Utd win to nil, but the quotes of EVS (Bet Victor) are short enough with the one-game ‘nothing to lose’ mentality, it being played behind closed doors and, of course, VAR.
As it stands, Man Utd are the top scorers in this season’s Europa League with 23 goals. On top of that, they’ve had 154 attempts on goal, with 55 on target – the joint-most with Sevilla.
They average 5.4 corners per game in this competition and it’s a similar amount in the Premier League.
When you eye up Copenhagen, they concede around five corners per game, and they’ll allow their opponents possession, which is a dangerous ploy up against this very attacking Man Utd side.
I don’t mind the look of Man Utd 2+ goals & Man Utd 5+ corners at 10/11 with Sky Bet. It’s hard to see how Copenhagen will handle the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood running at them, and off the defenders’ shoulders.
Then, the Danish side have to contain Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba – that won’t be easy. Former Wolves manager Solbakken has spoken in the build-up about his plans to keep United at arm’s length, and how he doesn’t want his side allowing counter-attacks.
United’s golden boot battle
While much of the focus will be on the Red Devils sweeping aside their Danish opponents, the sub-plot sees a tussle to end as United’s top scorer.
Martial hit the front in the race after his goal against LASK saw him move onto 23 for the season – one ahead of Marcus Rashford on 22.
We’re now at the business end of this tournament, so Solskjaer will go full strength meaning Rashford will play ahead of Odion Ighalo, who’s been the go-to man in this competition.
Rashford has only played 215 minutes of Europa League football this season, but in that time, he’s had seven shots on target and found the net against Partizan Belgrade.
With the English side averaging 2.06xGF (Expected Goals For) in their 10 Europa League games then we should see plenty of chances created and shots on the Copenhagen goal.
We’ve seen how ruthless Rashford can be this season, and he can be the one to fire Man Utd into Sunday’s semi-final.