|Image from The Evening Standard|
Manchester United meet Danish side FC Copenhagen on Monday night as we prepare to advance into the last four of the UEFA Europa League and look to go all the way to secure this trophy for the second time since winning the competition back in 2017. The competition has now entered a revised format for the quarter finals onwards as it is now a one leg tie after the tournament had been postponed due to the lockdown with now all matches taking place in stadiums across Germany.
After a gruelling end to the Premier League season, Ole Gunnar Solskjær was keen to rest key players for the second leg against LASK whilst giving some of the fringe players more game time. We had been leading 5-0 from the first leg and so we had the confidence to know we would be going through.
However, it was an underwhelming display from United as those fringe players lacked the match sharpness and at times were sloppy in possession, in our passing and with our final balls into the six yard box. Though LASK took a second half lead, goals from Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial saw out a win on the night to advance us into the quarter finals.
The game against LASK probably highlighted to Solskjær the need to invest in getting 2-3 high quality players in the summer transfer window as there seems to be a gap emerging between the regular starting eleven that was playing in the Premier League with the rest of the squad.
Meanwhile, our opponents FC Copenhagen have reached this part of the competition for the first time in their history after overcoming Istanbul Basaksehir in their round of 16 tie.
Teams: Manchester United vs FC Copenhagen
Date: August 10th 2020 (Monday)
KO Time: 20:00 BST
Competition: UEFA Europa League
Stadium: Stadion Köln
Managers: Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Stale Solbakken
Luke Shaw and Axel Tuanzebe are no longer in the Europa League squad due to injuries that will keep them out the rest of the season. The other injury concerns had been Phil Jones, Diogo Dalot and Victor Lindelof. Solskjær had stated that Dalot had a minor knock which is why he was not involved in the LASK game but had travelled with the squad to Germany. Lindelof was rested for the previous game and should be in contention to start against Copenhagen.
Phil Jones has not travelled with the squad for the quarter finals due to concern over a knee injury since football returned after lockdown. Solskjær gave this update to the United website before heading to Germany, “Phil has been following an individualised training programme during the post-lockdown period to optimise recovery from a knee problem. It was a good opportunity as we had sufficient cover in defensive positions for the remaining Premier League games and he will continue to work with a fitness coach at the Aon Training Complex, while the squad are in Germany.”
Solskjær will have to make a decision on whether he will choose David De Gea or Sergio Romero in goal for the remainder of the tournament. He said in the pre-match press conference, “I think I must be the most privileged manager in the world in the goalkeeper department, Sergio, David and Dean Henderson coming back, so you’ve got three top, top keepers and this season has shown again how important Sergio has been for us. Also for me David always performs there, so we’ll see what we do for rest of the season and going forward. But it’s a nice problem to have”.
He was asked in the press conference about the run of one defeat in the last 23 games since January with him replying, “One defeat in twenty-three is one too many.” I liked this from Ole as United should be looking to win every game they play.
Defender Brandon Williams had joined Ole in the press conference and was asked about his personality and aggression on the pitch as well the preferred position he would like to play. He said, “I think it’s from when I’ve been a kid here from the age of eight. It’s drilled in to you from a young age what this club means and it’s part of the DNA to have that inside you. But you’ve got to have it controlled and not over the top so I think that’s from the United coaches over the years gave me. Wherever the manager wants me to play I’m always willing to put a shift in and do my job. I’m just happy to be out on the field to be honest, it doesn’t matter where I play.”
As for the opposition, FC Copenhagen manager Stale Solbakken is not expected to make changes to his side after their impressive 3-0 win on Wednesday over Istanbul Basaksehir. United will be coming up against a former player of ours with Guillermo Varela who made eleven appearances for us back in the 2015-16 season now playing for the Danish side.
Solbakken has said that his side are the underdogs going into this match as he told the Mirror a few days ago, “Everything has to go for us and against United if we’re to stand any chance. The two teams under the most pressure to win the Europa League are United and Inter Milan. Both have already qualified for the Champions League, but haven’t won a trophy and they’re huge clubs who will see this as a big opportunity to do that.”
There are injury concerns for our opponents as they might have to do without Nicolaj Thomsen, Ragnar Sigurdsson and Viktor Fischer. They will also not have Michael Santos available as he is suspended following UEFA finding him guilty for his assault on a police officer during the round of 32 tie against Celtic.
Manchester United’s Europa League form: LWDWWW
FC Copenhagen Europa League form: WLDWLW
Both United and FC Copenhagen are managed by Norwegian coaches. Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Stale Solbakken had played 22 international matches for Norway together between 1995 and 2000. (source: uefa.com)
United have so far used 38 players in the ten UEFA Europa League games we have played – which is the most used by any club in the competition this season (source: uefa.com)
Solbakken was the Copenhagen coach and Solskjær a United player when the clubs met in the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League. (source: uefa.com).
Juan Mata has been involved in the last seven of nine goals scored by United in the Europa League with him netting twice and providing five assists.
Predicted Lineup: Romero; Williams, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka, Matic, Pogba, Fernandes, Greenwood, Rashford and Martial
United will be seen as very much the favourites to progress in this match, however we will have to be very wary of FC Copenhagen. It is likely that our opponents will look to sit back and let us have the majority of the possession trying to frustrate on our style of play. We will have to look out for their forward Jonas Wind, who will be one of the danger men after netting two goals and providing an assist against Istanbul Basaksehir. However, we have more than enough quality on the pitch if Ole is to play the regular starting eleven to overcome our Danish opponents and reach the last four of the competition.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 FC Copenhagen