Football Features

Man Utd vs Club Brugge: Solskjaer’s planning can nullify lightning-fast Belgians

By Chris Smith

Man Utd - Club Brugge - Europa League - Feature

Published: 16:19, 16 December 2019

Manchester United’s quest for Europa League glory now pits them against Belgian side Club Brugge.

On paper, the Red Devils’ task looks like a simple one – Club Brugge are currently ranked way back in 57th in Uefa’s Club Coefficients while they haven’t made it past the first knockout round of a European competition in their last five seasons.

That said, they do currently sit top of the Belgian First Division A having lost just one of their 18 games so far, while they also pulled off impressive draws with Real Madrid and Galatasaray during the Champions League group stages.

Still, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be fully expecting to seal progress to the next round, so, here is everything you need to know about Man Utd’s Europa League clash with Club Brugge.

When is Man Utd vs Club Brugge?

Man Utd will travel to Belgium for the first leg of their clash with Brugge on February 20, before hosting the second leg at Old Trafford on February 27.

Should the make it through, the Red Devils will then find out their last-16 opponents just a day later.

Man Utd’s Premier League fixtures either side of Club Brugge clash

08/02/20: Chelsea (A)

20/02/20: Club Brugge (A)

22/02/20: Watford (H)

27/02/20: Club Brugge (H)

29/03/20: Everton (A)

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Did you know? Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has won just three of his 14 career appearances against Man Utd.

Club Brugge strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

  • Brugge’s domestic title charge this season has been built on an incredibly strong defensive foundation, with Blauw-Zwart conceding just seven goals in 18 league games so far – nine less than the next-closest team. This solidity has been further illustrated by them holding PSG to a 1-0 scoreline in Paris and taking a 0-0 draw from Galatasaray back in September.
  • Brugge’s most impressive attackers throughout their Champions League group stage campaign were Nigerian Emmanuel Dennis – who bagged a brace a the Bernabeu – and Krepin Diatta. Both share a common trait, they’re lightning fast. As Brugge attempt to soak up pressure, their main ploy once winning the ball is to get it into their quick players forwards as soon as possible. While Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a brilliant covering right-back, Man Utd lack pace at left-back, while Victor Lindelof isn’t the fastest either – this is where Philippe Clement’s men will look to hurt the Red Devils.

Weaknesses

  • While Dennis is supercharged on the run, he is incredibly wasteful in front of goal. His two goals at the Bernabeu were flush with an immense amount of luck and both he and his teammates’ profligacy in the 18-yard box was a big factor in them not picking up more than their three points in the Champions League group stages. Admittedly, Diatta is a much more reliable finisher, but throughout the Brugge squad, they’re hardly reliable in front of goal.
  • Wastefulness wouldn’t be such a problem for Brugge if they created a ton of chances but, at least against superior opposition in Europe, they really do struggle to generate openings when they’re not in the open field. Yes, they can seriously test you on the break, but as long as Man Utd don’t leave themselves over-exposed at the back, they shouldn’t have a problem in closing Brugge out.

Key stat: Club Brugge created the second-lowest number of big chances (5) of any side during the Champions League group stages.

Prediction

Brugge have already proved they can mix it with the big guns this season, giving Real Madrid, PSG and Galatasaray serious runs for their money in the Champions League.

That said, if Man Utd really do have ambitions of winning the Europa League and returning to Europe’s top table, these are the sorts of early knockout games they should be putting away with ease.

Solskjaer will leave no stone unturned in his preparation for this and over two legs, his side should have enough to reach the last-16 – Man Utd to progress

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