Man United v Club Brugge: Functional Reds to do just enough again

Daley Blind has been a positive influence on the Man United defence so far this season
Daley Blind has been a positive influence on the Man United defence so far this season

A clean sheet shouldn't prove beyond Man United when they host Club Brugge in the Champions League play-off round...


"The only opposition player to net in Man United’s previous four Champions League encounters at Old Trafford now calls the Theatre of Dreams home: Bastian Schweinsteiger. The other three visitors were shut out, a fate which has befallen Club Brugge twice on their travels already this season."

Back Man United to keep a clean sheet @ 1.9420/21

Man United 1.3130/100 v Club Brugge 13.012/1; The Draw 6.05/1
Tuesday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport Europe


Man United

Louis van Gaal made his managerial name as an advocate of attacking football at Ajax and Barcelona, but his work with the Netherlands at World Cup 2014 - playing three centre backs and grinding out injury-time or penalty shootout victories - highlighted that he can be a pragmatist when required.

The latter qualities are likely to be more beneficial than the former if Manchester United are to defy their assessment as 7.26/1 fourth favourites to win the Premier League, and the early signs are promising.

Despite numerous apparent issues - uncertainty about the goalkeeping position, Daley Blind starting at centre back in a back four and Wayne Rooney lacking sharpness - they have collected six points from a potentially hazardous opening pair of Premier League fixtures, and without conceding too.

He has delivered a title to a squad that was dismissed as not good enough for top spot and lacked the attacking weaponry of the favourites at AZ Alkmaar in 2008/09, and this writer has a hunch that a similar success is underway at Old Trafford.

Domestic ambitions take a backseat though due to the essential task of ensuring that last season's fourth-place finish is cashed in on with a return to the Champions League group stage after being absent for the first time in 19 years last term. Phil Jones is the sole player expected to miss out.


Club Brugge

If one year away from the Champions League spotlight proved too much for Man United to handle, imagine how starved Club Brugge feel having last sampled the group stage in 2005/06.

This is just their second shot at readmission since and came about due to an all-round impressive campaign under Michel Preud'homme, the coach responsible for building the Standard Liege team that caused Liverpool such problems in the 2008/09 preliminaries (albeit after he had left for Gent).

His current employers were denied the Jupiler Pro League championship by two points having led at the end of the regular season, won the domestic cup and reached the Europa League quarter-finals.

They have lost goalkeeper Mathew Ryan (Valencia) and experienced forward Tom De Sutter (Bursaspor) since though, and two of their most reliable goal-getters Lior Refaelov and Jose Izquierdo are both injury doubts.


Match Odds

Man United's heavy favouritism is justified by Club Brugge's dismal 2015/16 away form. They have hit the road four times, been beaten three times and prevailed on zero occasions, and the Red Devils should be a step up from Gent (1-0), Sint-Truiden (2-1), Panathinaikos (2-1) and Charleroi (0-0).

The Premier League club have won four and drawn one of their five Champions League home games post-Sir Alex Ferguson. Their record when hosting Belgian sides borders on cruelty: three matches, three triumphs and 18 goals for. By contrast, Club Brugge's results in England read P11 W0 D2 L9.


Man United Clean Sheet

The only opposition player to net in Man United's previous four Champions League encounters at Old Trafford now calls the Theatre of Dreams home ("zuhause" in German, we believe): Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The other three visitors were shut out, a fate which has befallen Club Brugge twice on their travels already this season. As mentioned earlier, many of their attacking protagonists have either departed or might not be available.

Man United haven't been breached in 2015/16 despite bringing two newcomers into the backline in Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero and Italian right back Matteo Darmian and turning to Blind at centre half. Romero was called upon a few times against Tottenham, but was rarely threatened by Aston Villa last time out.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

While praising van Gaal's defence for being nowhere near as vulnerable as many projected, it is only fair to admit that the frontline haven't are still to click. Their two wins were both 1-0s, and one of their strikes was a Kyle Walker own goal.

Their past four competitive games all served up under 2.5 goals, a feat in keeping with three of their most recent four continental outings in front of their fans. Club Brugge gave up just one goal in their last four matches and kept nine Europa League clean sheets in 2014/15.


Recommended Bets

Back Man United to keep a clean sheet @ 1.9420/21
Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.447/5


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