UEFA Champions League Play-Off 1st Leg. Live on BT Sport Europe / BT Sport Europe HD. Kick-off 7.45pm
United are unaccustomed to kicking-off their European campaign so early in the season but the fans will be grateful for the opportunity at least to qualify for the group stages after being starved of any European action last season.
Luis Van Gaal’s side must overcome Belgian opposition to take their place amongst Europe’s elite and despite a steady, if unspectacular start to the domestic campaign they should be way too strong for the side that ultimately finished second in the Belgian Pro League. I say ultimately because Brugge actually topped the table at the end of the regular season but during a convoluted Championship Play-Off they lost out to Gent who qualified automatically for the group stages.
The Belgians sealed their play in the play-off round thanks to an away goals win over Panathanaikos in the last round.
For United it’s a chance to blow away some early season cobwebs. There’s little margin of error – a second season without Champions League football would be disastrous – so expect Van Gaal to give this tie the utmost respect. United’s record against Belgian opposition at Old Trafford should give them plenty of hope. In three matches against Anderlecht, they won 18-1 on aggregate and I expect another glut of goals on Tuesday night.
Van Gaal has been bullish in his defence of Wayne Rooney and his misfiring strikers; “”I have always confidence in my players but we don’t have only Wayne Rooney in the striker’s position,” he said. “All the media has written for one year that I have to put him in the striker’s position so it’s amazing that after two games you’re doubting your own opinions. I cannot understand that.”
A few goals would do a lot to ease the pressure and what better opposition to kick-start their Euro campaign against.
United should also beat the -1 handicap by giving themselves a handsome first leg lead. Back that at 10/11 with Bet365.