Man Utd paired with Anderlecht in Europa League quarter-finals

Updated: March 18, 2017

Manchester United will play Belgian side Anderlecht in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Manager Jose Mourinho will be relieved that it will be a short trip for United this time following their narrow last-16 win over Russian side Rostov.

The first leg will take place in Brussels on April 13, with the second match at Old Trafford a week later.

United are the favourites to win the competition – which would complete their set of major European trophies and also earn a spot in next season’s Champions League.

It will be the fourth tie between the sides, with United coming out on top of the three previous ones.

Their record European victory came against Anderlecht when they were 10-0 winners at Old Trafford in the European Cup preliminary round in September 1956.

More recent ties have been tighter, with United losing in Belgium in 1968 and 2000 but dominating at home.

Anderlecht started their Europa League journey in August with a play-off victory over Slavia Prague and then came through a group including Gabala, St Etienne and Mainz.

The last 32 saw them beat Zenit St Petersburg on away goals while they won both legs against Apoel Nicosia in the last 16.

Anderlecht top the Belgian league by two points and are looking to win the title for the first time since 2014.

With a Premier League clash against Chelsea in between the two legs, the crucial thing for United was to keep travel to a minimum, and the good news was they avoided Turkish side Besiktas.

Juan Mata, the match-winner for United against Rostov on Thursday, has his sights firmly set on European silverware.

He said: ”It became a while ago very important for us. I still think we have the chance to get to the Champions League through the Premier League. I still think we can win a lot of games and get into the third or fourth positions.

“But it’s another chance for us and we will take it very seriously. It’s very important – it could be one more trophy and it means we play Champions League.”

Anderlecht president Roger Vanden Stock described the United tie as “the hardest possible draw for us” but believes his side can pull off an upset.

He said on the club website: “You never know, we didn’t think we would beat Zenit either.

“It’s a team at Champions League level with a lot of qualities. If we were to qualify, I would light a few candles.”

Manager Herman van Holsbeeck echoed the president’s thoughts and has his own concerns about a clash between European and domestic priorities.

“This is a very difficult draw,” he said. “The players’ programme will be a challenging one, especially because we play at home first and then away.

“Immediately after the match in England on Thursday, the top match against Club Brugge will follow.

“But it is of course a very nice fixture. A unique opportunity for our players to take on such a team and show themselves in Europe.”