Manchester United vs RSC Anderlecht Preview: Red Devils hold advantage as semi-final place beckons

Manchester United host RSC Anderlecht at Old Trafford in pole position to progress to the UEFA Europa League semi-final. A 1-1 draw at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium saw United score a crucial away goal that gives them the edge ahead of the second leg.

The Europa League is the most realistic route into next year's UEFA Champions League for Jose Mourinho's side, with the three-time European champions the favourites to win the competition.

Tonight's hosts had initially looked like taking a one-goal aggregate lead back to Manchester after Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave them a deserved first-half lead. However, wasted chances and an Anderlecht fight-back meant Leander Dendoncker's late header was enough to secure a draw.

United in fine form ahead of the game

The Red Devils' formidable home record in the Europa League also puts them firmly in the drivers' seat, winning every game at the Theatre of Dreams in the competition thus far, scoring 13 goals and conceding just once.

Despite a stuttering league campaign littered with draws, United are unbeaten in the league since late October, when league leaders Chelsea dispatched Mourinho's men.

But the Red Devils gained revenge last Sunday, as a tactical masterclass from the Special One saw United beat Antonio Conte's side 2-0, denying the Blues a mere shot on target.

Can Anderlecht carry on good domestic showing?

Anderlecht sit top of the Belgium Jupiler League, two points clear of closest rivals Club Brugge. Seven wins from the last ten league games suggest the Belgians are in a good vein of form ahead of the clash with United.

Captain and midfield maestro, Youri Tielemans has been touted as a future superstar and will be a key player should the Belgians progress to the semi-finals.

Team news

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Michael Carrick were both rested for the clash with Chelsea so will be fresh ahead of the fixture on Thursday night. Mourinho is suffering from a lack of options at the back, with both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones both out of the game.

Juan Mata will also miss out, and is likely to miss the rest of the season through injury. Sergio Romero is expected to deputise for David de Gea as he's started eight out of the 11 games in the competition this term.

Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford all impressed with their performances against Chelsea and are in line for starts against the Belgian league leaders. United and England captain Wayne Rooney has returned to training but is only expected to be on the bench.

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