It seems like an age since Manchester United played their final group game of the Europa League, beating AZ Alkmaar 4-0 at Old Trafford in mid-December.
United now travel to Club Brugge in Belgium in the round of 32, with a slight feeling of optimism returning to the club, following an impressive 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
How do Manchester United look?Embed from Getty Images
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s injury woes feel like they are never going to end, with the boss confirming that Marcus Rashford’s injury will see him out for longer than expected.
The Norwegian said “I’m not a doctor, but obviously I was hoping that he would recover quicker than it actually looks like he is going to be out for. So [he’ll be out for] another few months definitely.”
Mason Greenwood has also reportedly not travelled with the squad, meaning it is likely that Odion Ighalo will make his first start for the Reds following his cameo appearance off the bench against Chelsea on Monday night.Embed from Getty Images
In terms of other positions, Scott McTominay was pictured returning to full training in preparation for the match but is not expected to feature as he isn’t quite ready.
Eric Bailly made his return to first-team football on Monday night and put in an impressive display, so he may be a contender to start in Belgium.
Opposition: Club BruggeEmbed from Getty Images
The hosts for this match sit first in the Belgian Pro League, having lost just one game in the 26 they’ve played all season, giving them an impressive nine-point lead over second placed Gent.
They also boast an incredible defensive record, having let in only 12 goals all season, by far the best record in the league.
Attacking midfielder Hans Vanaken will likely pose the biggest threat to United’s goal, having scored 12 league goal this season, Club Brugge’s highest, and the third highest in the league.
Former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet signed for Brugge last summer for a reported fee of £6.4 million,
Mignolet has kept 15 clean sheets in his 24 league appearances, conceding just 11 goals in that time, contributing greatly to the aforementioned best defence in the division.
Key StatsEmbed from Getty Images
United have faced Brugge twice before- a two-legged affair in the Champions League qualification stage under Louis Van Gaal in 2015, beating the Belgian outfit 4-0 away from home, and 3-1 at Old Trafford.
United will be hopeful of maintaining their 100%-win rate against the club in order to assure their progression to the last 16 of the Europa League.
The Reds boast an impressive Europa League defensive record, having kept five clean sheets in their six group L matches, only conceding in the 2-1 defeat away to Astana, when an extremely young United side impressed and were unlucky to leave with nothing.
Club Brugge 0-2 Manchester United. A brace from Bruno Fernandes.