Having been shut out by Burnley in Saturday’s Premier League goalless draw, Manchester United will travel to Turkey eager to get back among goals and claim a win against Fenerbahce that could help them open up a significant gap on top of Europa League Group A.
Atmosphere the Key
Football matches in Turkey are habitually fiercely contested affairs and one such should most definitely be expected on Thursday given the reputation of the rival arriving at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium. There is a unique passion burning inside the Turkish fans and Manchester United should brace for a challenging night in Istanbul. Fenerbahce are sure to use the impetus to build up on their most recent run of form and consecutive league wins over Konyaspor and Karabukspor since the last meeting with Red Devils. The Turkish side scored 5 goals in the latter match, with Robin Van Persie adding a brace for his side. The Netherlands international is once again in for an emotional reunion and will surely be more than motivated to put in a solid performance against his former employers. Fenerbahce are trailing United by two points and Thursday’s clash comes with great importance and significance as it could shuffle the current standings in Group A. Currently in third place, Turkish giants would leapfrog their English rivals should they manage to grab all three points.
Tufan and Zeybek are ruled out for the hosts due to their ankle and knee problems respectively. Brazilian forward Fernandao missed his club’s last six matches due to an ankle injury, but could be a surprise inclusion as he is nearing his return.
Manchester United have endured a fair share of criticism this season, but large portion of it came undeservedly against the Clarets as Jose Mourinho simply lacked luck on the occasion. Some would argue that it was the cutting edge that was missing however as Manchester United fired 37 shots towards Burnley’s goal, which is the club’s highest tally in a Premier League game since these statistics were introduced. Should United win in Istanbul and Feyenoord fail to beat Zorya Luhansk in Ukraine, the Reds will be given a chance to open up a five-point gap at the top of the group, which will surely be a big of a boost for the team ahead of their new challenges. Manchester United scored four against Fenerbahce in last month’s meeting at Old Trafford and it is now up to the struggling stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba to raise the level of performances and end the frustration with another victory over the Turkish side.
Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia are unavailable for the Thursday’s clash, while Chris Smalling and Anthony Martial are doubtful having missed their last two games. Jose Mourinho is likely to field a changed team to the one which faced Fenerbahce last time out.
One thing is sure, we will all be in for a fiercely contested match in Turkey. Manchester United will be looking to bounce back from a goalless stalemate against Burnley, but Turkish side are enjoying a good run of form and will be a tough nut to crack in front of their fans. Openly contested game should yield goals at both ends of the pitch.
Top pick: Both teams to score – yes 1.83 (5/6) @Ladbrokes
Alternative pick 1: Man United 2.30 (13/10) @Bet365
Alternative pick 2: Man United/Man United 4.00 (3/1) @WilliamHill