Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has been constantly linked with taking over at Manchester United in recent months, so if Louis van Gaal intends to stay at Old Trafford beyond the end of the season, he knows that a win over FC Midtjylland over two legs in the last-32 of the UEFA Europa League is essential.
Dropping out of the Champions League at the group stage was a major disappointment, and only fuelled the rumours of executive vice-chairman Edward Woodward seeking a managerial replacement.
If the Dutchman is to stay at the Theatre of Dreams for another season, he knows that he needs to secure Champions League qualification. United are currently fifth in the Premier League and with the top four – Leicester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City – all fighting it out for the title rather than dropping off the pace, it looks increasingly unlikely that United will qualify for the top European competition due to their league position come the end of the season.
However, an added incentive in the Europa League this campaign is that the winners will automatically qualify for next term’s Champions League. So Van Gaal knows that winning the competition could be the last chance for him to keep his job.
But the former FC Barcelona boss knows that it will not be easy to overcome their Danish opponents. FC Midtjylland denied Southampton a place in the Europa League group stages after they beat the Saints in the play-off rounds.
Midtjylland finished second in Group D, with Italian giants Napoli topping the group. But they have struggled of late – winning just one of their last nine games in all competitions, although their last competitive fixture was back in December.
Going into the game at the MCH Arena, a lot has been made of the extortionate ticket prices. United supporters had to pay £75 in total for a ticket to each of their away Champions League group matches this campaign, while Red Devils fans now have to stump up £71 to see United in Herning, Denmark. As a result; travelling fans are planning to protest against the ticket prices. However, the Danish champions have insisted that they feel the price is ‘fair’.
The travelling support will not see captain Wayne Rooney in action, as the England international has been ruled out for around six weeks with a knee injury.
United boss Van Gaal has said that he will be without 13 players for the trip to Denmark, with full-backs Matteo Darmian and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson being the latest to be ruled out.
Darmian; the Italy international who joined from Torino in the summer, dislocated his shoulder in the defeat at Sunderland on Saturday, while Borthwick-Jackson is ill. Marouane Fellaini has also been ruled out, while Adnan Januzaj is cup-tied having played in the competition during his loan spell with Borussia Dortmund earlier this season.
Donald Love, who replaced Darmian to make his senior debut at the Stadium of Light, is likely to come in for his full debut. Meanwhile; youngsters Regan Poole, Joe Riley and James Weir have also travelled and could make their senior debuts.
The hosts will be without midfielder Jakob Poulsen, who is suspended, while goalkeeper Johan Dahlin is a long-term absentee with a knee injury. Petter Andersson is also a doubt with a knee problem.
Group Position: FC Midtjylland – 2nd (Group D), 7 points; Manchester United – 3rd (Champions League Group B), 8 points
Previous Meeting: This will be the first-ever meeting between FC Midtjylland and Manchester United
Key Men: FC Midtjylland – Martin Pusic; Manchester United – Anthony Martial
Form: FC Midtjylland – LWDLLD; Manchester United – WLWWDL
Shoot Says: FC Midtjylland 1-2 Manchester United