Man United might not have things all their own way in tonight's Europa clash with FC Midtjylland.
Man Utd suffered a 2-1 defeat in Denmark last week, despite being as short as 1.7 and taking the lead just before half-time. Van Gaal was hampered by injuries but picked the strongest side he could for that fixture, as he did for the 3-0 FA Cup win at Shrewsbury on Monday and he’ll no doubt pick his strongest team here despite the visit of Arsenal on Sunday – though given the number of injuries at Old Trafford he doesn’t have much choice but to go for the best starting XI.
With the Danish League still on its winter break, Midtjylland have had a full week to prepare for this tie and work out how they’re going to upset the odds and make it to the last 16. United were as short as 1.14 to make it through ahead of the first leg and they’re now out to 1.4 but still very much expected to progress.
Man Utd’s European home record in the post-Ferguson era reads W6-D2-L0 with five clean sheets in these matches across the 2013/14 Champions League and the group stages of this year’s competition. We have United ranked as the 19th best team in Europe while Midtjylland’s are down in 113th and United’s home record in Europe against sides ranked between 75th and 150th since 2004/05 is W4-D3-L2 and they haven’t won any of the last seven of these matches since 2008/09 by more than one goal as five have had fewer than two goals.
In the group stages Midtjylland won their opening away game at Brugge 3-1 before being thumped 5-0 at Napoli and then losing 1-0 at Legia Warsaw. United also played Brugge in qualification for the Champions League and won 4-0 in Belgium, so on that form line there isn’t a great deal between the two sides, although the 5-0 defeat at Napoli is a concern for Midtjylland. The record of Danish sides when travelling to England in Europe since 2008/09 is a decent W2-D4-L3 as Copenhagen managed a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge in the 2010/11 Champions League, while Aalborg picked up a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in the group stages of the 2008/09 Champions League. Indeed Midtjylland themselves have won in Manchester having beaten United’s city rivals 1-0 in qualification for the 2008/09 Europa League.
United look very short to us at 1.25 and since they have only won two of their last 13 home matches in all competitions by more than one goal, we’re siding with Midtjylland to be competitive in this one in what will be the biggest tie in the club’s and many of their players’ careers.
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