Manchester United can secure their passage to the knockout rounds of the Champions League with victory at home to PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday (19:45 GMT, live on BT Sport).
United have a one point advantage over both PSV and Wolfsburg at the top of Group B with two matches left to play. However, while three points on Wednesday would see them through, defeat would put them in a tricky spot ahead of their trip to Wolfsburg on the final match-day.
Louis van Gaal’s (pictured) team will certainly be wary of a PSV side who triumphed 2-1 when these sides met in Eindhoven back in September. Man Utd took the lead through former PSV forward Memphis Depay, only for their hosts to equalise through Hector Moreno on the stroke of the half-time and then secure victory with Luciano Narsingh’s 57th-minute strike.
Best Match Betting Odds
1/2 Man Utd (Bet365, Coral, BetVictor, SkyBet, Betfred, Ladbrokes, William Hill, Betfair)
7/2 Draw (Bet365, BetVictor, Betfred, Paddy Power, Betfair)
13/2 PSV (Bet365, BetVictor, Betfred, Paddy Power, Betfair)
United recovered well from that early setback by taking seven points from their home match against Wolfsburg and the double-header against CSKA Moscow, and have performed similarly solidly in the Premier League, where they currently sit second. Their cautious style of play has not been to everyone’s taste but results have thus far justified the means.
Matches involving Man Utd have generally been tight affairs, averaging fewer goals (2.15) than those of all but two other sides in the Premier League. Their solid structure, including two dedicated holding midfielders in front of the back four, and canny use of possession as a defensive tool have contributed to them conceding a league-low nine goals to date.
It would be fair to say that they have not looked as impressive in attack. They have scored three times in a match on four occasions but have also failed to score in the same number of matches. No side in the current top eight has scored fewer goals than United’s 19, and it is this lack of offensive adventure that has rankled with sections of the club’s support.
Van Gaal is hopeful of having Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney back for Wednesday’s match after both missed the 2-1 win away to Watford on Saturday. Depay scored in his first league start in going on seven weeks but is likely to drop back to the bench for the visit of his former club if either of the aforementioned pair are available for selection.
Wednesday’s opponents are coached by Philip Cocu, who played under Van Gaal at both Barcelona and with the Dutch national team and is therefore well-versed in his opposite number’s approach. He led his side to last season’s league title in his second year in charge, and they sit third this time around, four points shy of leaders Ajax.
Cocu was disappointed with the manner in which his side lost their focus after taking an early lead through Gaston Pereiro in their 2-2 draw away to Willem II on Saturday. It was the fourth time this season that PSV had dropped points after going ahead, although this lack of concentration has only really been evident in matches against weaker opposition.
Victories over United and Wolfsburg in Europe and Ajax and Feyenoord domestically certainly suggest that PSV are capable of remaining focused in big-match situations. They are, in general, a young side, but the clever and efficient play of experienced Mexican international Andres Guardado provides a calming influence in the centre of the park.
The summer departure of Depay and the absence through injury of Jetro Willems, his left-sided partner in crime of last season, have taken away a little of the offensive dynamism that was such a key part of PSV’s title success. But with Luke de Jong in excellent form and the likes of Narsingh, Pereiro and Jurgen Locadia also chipping in, they still carry a solid threat.
Man Utd have, however, kept clean sheets in six of their last eight matches in all competitions, and while they fell to defeat in the first meeting between these sides, they will be confident of keeping PSV at bay on Wednesday. Having done so, a goal or two will be sufficient for them to come away with three points and a place in the last 16.