Belfast Telegraph

United sweet on short Euro trip amid fixture chaos

By Simon Peach

Jose Mourinho got his wish for a short trip when Manchester United were paired with Anderlecht in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

The Red Devils boss vented his frustration with his side's fixture schedule after Thursday's 1-0 win over Rostov, which saw them scrape through to the last eight.

The Russians had been the team Mourinho had hoped to avoid in the last 16 because of the travel implications, so a journey to Brussels will be much more to his liking.

The first leg will take place in Belgium 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 in 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.

United lost in Belgium in 1968 and 2000 but have dominated at home.

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

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: "You never know, we didn't think we would beat Zenit (in the last 32) either. It's a team at Champions League level with a lot of qualities."

Sporting manager Herman van Holsbeeck added: "This is a very difficult draw. The players' programme will be a challenging one, especially because we play at home first and then away.

"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."

Belfast Telegraph

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