Saturday 24 February 2018

Five reasons why Man United could crash out Europe tonight

George Critchley

Louis van Gaal's side head into the second leg needing to overturn a 2-1 deficit - and they have their work cut out to progress.

United have never won a home game in the Europa League

United’s record in Europe’s second-tier competition is emphatically dreadful. Their last dalliance in 2012 ended in a home defeat to Ajax followed by an embarrassing exit at the hands of Athletic Bilbao, who knocked out Alex Ferguson’s side 5-3 on aggregate in the last-16.

Going further back in history, United’s record in the Uefa Cup was equally grim; they never progressed past the quarter-finals and were knocked out by such European giants as Rotor Volgograd (1996), Torpedo Moscow (1993) and Videoton (1985).

FC Midtjylland (almost) always beat the English

The Danish champions’ record against teams from England reads three wins, one draw and one defeat.

They eliminated Southampton 2-1 on aggregate in this season’s Europa League play-offs and their last visit to Manchester, against City in 2008, brought a 1-0 win.

They come to Old Trafford with nothing to lose and, as they proved in the first leg against United, they are actually quite good. The Danes are also on their winter break, so they have plenty of fuel in the tank.

Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal

Arsenal on the horizon

Surprisingly, given their various traumas this season, a Champions League place is not out of United’s reach.

In fact, should Van Gaal’s side beat Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday – less than 72 hours after this match –  they will close to within three points of fourth-placed Manchester City, who will be otherwise engaged in the Capital One Cup final.

Do not be surprised to see United approach tonight at rather less than full throttle, and any lack of intensity will play into their rivals’ hands.

Old Trafford misery

United’s inability to score at home this season has been at the heart of their problems. Van Gaal’s side have scored just eight first-half goals at home in all competitions, and their Premier League tally of 15 is the lowest in the top eight – even relegation-threatened Newcastle United and Norwich City have found the net more times in front of their own fans. United’s ill-fated Champions League campaign brought just three goals in three games at Old Trafford.

They may only need one goal to progress, but form suggests even that may be a struggle.

De Gea’s out – as injuries mount

Van Gaal heads into this tie without 13 players, including Wayne Rooney, central midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Bastian Schweinsteiger and at least five players capable of playing at full-back.

Add to that list goalkeeper David de Gea, who injured himself in the first leg against the Danes. For a game United have to win, they are worryingly light on the ground.

(© Independent News Service)

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