We were in Brussels to see if Jose Mourinho’s side could take a decent first-leg result back home.
Good evening everybody. Welcome to our coverage of a pretty tasty European quarter-final. Manchester United are eyeing up the Europa League as their best way into next season’s Champions League and, when you look around the remaining teams in the tournament, it makes some sense.
But, Jose Mourinho’s side have hardly been explosive in recent weeks, as their last Europa League outing against Rostov showed. They continue to rely heavily on Zlatan Ibrahimovic to paper the cracks but are getting the job done.
Will that continue in Brussels tonight?
The teams are in so let’s start with the home side.
And it’s good news for Manchester United. Anderlecht are in the midst of a crucial domestic play-off currently and that’s where their focus is. So, it’s far from a full-strength lineup for them.
Seven changes in total, including their top-scorer Lukasz Teodorczyk having to make do with a place on the bench.
Anderlecht XI: Ruben Martinez, Appiah, Mbodji, Nuytinck, Obradovic, Bruno, Tielemans, Dendoncker, Stanciu, Acheampong, Thelin.
Subs: Boeckx, Deschacht, Spajic, Chipciu, Diego Capel, Teodorczyk, Hanni.
Three changes for United from their 3-0 win over Sunderland at the weekend. Carrick, Valencia and Rashford come in while Shaw, Fellaini and Herrera drop to the bench.
Sergio Romero continues in goal with David de Gea, once again, on the bench.
Man Utd XI: Romero, Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Darmian, Carrick, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Lingard, Rashford, Ibrahimovic.
Subs: de Gea, Martial, Blind, Ander Herrera, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Fellaini.
Also, the last time United went to Brussels to take on Anderlecht in a European tie, they were left red-faced as Tomasz Radzinski and Jan Koller tore them to shreds. That game, and another Champions League away defeat to PSV, led to Sir Alex Ferguson changing his system in Europe and greatly influenced his decision to bring in Juan Sebastian Veron.
Read about it right here.
Fergie’s in Brussels.
In a world of chaos and confusion, there is always one constant we can rely on: Zlatan’s humility.
Interesting to see Lingard in a deeper role, alongside Carrick and Pogba.
Decent start from the home side – some nice touches and United need to be careful down their right side. Bailly and Valencia have been tested early on.
Acheampong is very quick down the left side and a direct ball over the top sees him sprint away from the United defence. Romero races off his line, attempts to clear but completely slices his kick. Luckily for him, it only goes out for a corner. Anderlecht can’t do anything with it, though.
Zlatan makes a mess of his first-touch (chases back but stops running when he reaches the halfway line) and Anderlecht are away on the counter with Bruno. He switches it left to Acheampong and he lines up the left-foot strike but never catches it properly and it veers across Romero’s goal with the keeper watching it all the way. Another reminder to United, though.
Rashford picks it up deep from Pogba and looks to stretch the legs. But after the initial surge, there’s a poor touch and he ends up conceding a free-kick after tangling with Kara in the Anderlecht area.
United really need to figure out Acheampong. From their own corner, it’s headed clear, picked up by the winger with no-one around him and he just takes off. He makes about 40 yards before losing possession but United cheaply surrender the ball again and conjure a half-chance for Kiese-Thelin at the near post.
BIG CHANCE! Ooooh. It should be 1-0 to the guests. Rashford is wide left, cuts onto his right and curls in a delicious low cross. Ibrahimovic stretches out a leg but Ruben makes a decent stop. On the rebound, Lingard pounces but the effort comes back off the upright and Anderlecht get it clear.
If Acheampong is enjoying himself for Anderlecht, Rashford is doing something similar for United. He’s been on the ball quite a bit, he’s been taking on defenders, creating the game’s best chance and not shirking the defensive side of things either.
BOOKING! Anderlecht are just so quick in transition and Mkhitaryan takes out Tielemans in midfield as he breaks clear and looks to launch another counter-attack.
CHANCES! Two chances for United in quick succession and they’re much improved in the last 10 minutes or so.
Firstly, Carrick rolls the years back and pings a superb ball over the top for Rashford to latch onto. He’s crowded out by Kara as he prepares to pull the trigger but the ball breaks for Mkhitaryan, who sets himself up and cracks in the low shot. But there’s Nuytinck to make a brilliant block.
Then, moments later, Mkhitaryan cleverly evades Nuytinck and looks to find Lingard but Mbodji gets across and dives in front of the youngster as he takes the shot.
United deserve that. They work the right side and Valencia spots Rashford free in the area. He plays the pass inside and the youngster cracks a lovely strike first-time. Ruben does superbly to stick out a right hand and push it away but he can’t get enough distance on it and Mkhitaryan is so quick to get to it and push it to the net from a tight angle.
Hard to believe it took Rashford so long to force his way into Mourinho’s first-team picture. In many ways, he’s the perfect Mourinho player. Strong, resilient, hard-working, disciplined. He’s shown an incredible maturity at Old Trafford given his meteoric rise. Other young players should use him as their ideal role model.
That’s a solid half from Jose Mourinho’s side and he’ll be happy. It took them a while to find their rhythm and figure Anderlecht out but when they did they began to make things happen.
Rashford has been terrific on the left side and he’s been central to all of United’s best moves. It was no surprise when his first-time strike was tipped away by Ruben, only for Mkhitaryan to follow up and finish to the net.
They could have added to their tally but only some brilliant last-ditch defending saved Anderlecht and kept it at one.
The hosts made some early incisions through Acheampong but his influence faded after an impressive opening 15 minutes. If they’re to get anything from this game, they need to get him and their other key players back in the game. Otherwise, United could be out of sight after this first-leg.
Nuytinck is given a nice introduction to to second period by getting a boot in the face from Ibrahimovic.
BOOKING! Carrick takes down Acheampong as the winger races towards the United box. A yellow for the veteran and a free-kick in a great position for Anderlecht.
And that great position is wasted by Stanciu, who thumps the free-kick harmlessly over the bar.
Like the opening period, Anderlecht have begun well in this second half. Bruno sees his shot deflected by Matteo Darmian and it seems to whip past Romero only for Valencia to get a foot to it and the ball balloons into the air. It drops for Acheampong, who cracks a volley towards goal but Valencia is there to block again. Good work from the full-back.
CLOSE! Oh. That would’ve been beautiful. Pogba clips it to Darmian wide left. His cross is a bit low for Mkhitaryan to do much with it but he manages to jump in the air and measure a controlled side-foot with his left. It’s curling towards the far corner but drifts away at the last minute and drops just wide. Ruben was frantically diving towards his left but gleefully watched as it fell past his post.
SUBSTITUTION! Chipciu (on) – Bruno (off)
The hosts are the first to make a change. They’ll be encouraged by their opening to this half but they continue to give away chances, which will be a big concern. They don’t want this tie to be put to bed tonight.
It looks like United are going to make some changes with Fellaini set to be one of them…Stay tuned for an update.
Lovely interchange between United’s front-three as Ibrahimovic’s touches to Mkhitaryan and he drops a terrific ball over the top for Rashford, who flicks past Nuytinck but the defender does well to stretch and win the challenge.
SUBSTITUTION! Martial (on) – Lingard (off)
It’s not Fellaini, yet. Instead, Martial comes in and United will switch to a 4-2-3-1 now. Rashford has swapped wings and will play on the right.
SUBSTITUTION! Hanni (on) – Stanciu (off)
A second change for the Belgians as they look to give United something to worry about for the remaining 25 minutes.
BOOKING! Goodness me. Rashford jinks past Obradovic on the right flank and is absolutely cemented by an crunching but badly mistimed tackle. The studs aren’t up and it’s not high. It’s just one of those that makes you go ‘Oooooooooooof’. And the defender, thankfully, is punished for it.
SUBSTITUTIONS! Fellaini (on) – Rashford (off) & Teodorczyk (in) – Kiese Thelin (out)
The former Standard Liege midfielder is roundly booed as he’s introduced while Anderlecht bring in their leading scorer Teodorczyk as their last change. Can he give them something late on here?
That really would’ve driven the home fans crazy. The ball breaks for Fellaini on the edge of the area and he cracks one with his right foot but it’s straight at Ruben and the keeper parries before getting down and making sure.
CHANCE! That really should be 2-0 and the tie over. Ibrahimovic slips a really lovely pass into the path of Pogba who’s through on goal but he hits it straight at Ruben and the keeper sticks out a leg and deflects it out for a corner. Big, big chance that’s not taken.
Well. United have missed so many chances to kill this off and have been made pay. It’s a bit of a nothing cross from Obradovic because there’s nobody in the area for Anderlecht. But he whips it into an area and Dendoncker – who has been excellent in defensive midfield – somehow races into its path. Fellaini has no idea he’s behind him, he drifts in front of Darmian and powers the header past Romero.
SUBSTITUTION! Fosu-Mensah (on) – Mkhitaryan (off)
United have used all three subs now as the Dutch youngster comes in.
BOOKING! And the first thing Fosu-Mensah does is dive, two-footed, into a challenge and pick up a yellow card. Silly stuff.