Anderlecht are fighting against the odds and the record books at Manchester United, but manager Rene Weiler believes his players can land a knockout blow in their Europa League quarter-final.
The most successful team in Belgian football are competing in their first continental quarter-final in 20 years and arrive at Old Trafford with the score locked at 1-1 after Leander Dendoncker’s late header.
However, Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s away goal in Brussels last week could yet prove crucial as United look to progress to the semi-finals, which bookmakers have them as short as 1-12 to reach.
Sir Alex Ferguson was at the helm when United last lost a continental match on home soil and Anderlecht have never won any of their 17 previous visits to English clubs, highlighting what a big ask lies in wait for the visitors.
“Of course we have to believe,” manager Weiler said ahead of the return fixture. “We do believe, but at the same time we have to be realistic.
“We know we are playing a very high level team in Manchester United. You only have to look at the performance of this squad last Sunday, they limited Chelsea to hardly any shots on target at all.
“I think they have had three defeats in the entire season and in the last 22 matches in the game they are unbeaten. They are very strong at the back and they have some great individuals as well.
“We saw in the first leg what they can do and we know it is going to be very hard, and we know that pretty much everyone in our team is going to have to put in a perfect performance. But we do believe and we will be trying our absolute best to try and make sure that happens. We do need a goal tomorrow but we need to be prudent as well.”
The trip to United does not, rather surprisingly, appear to be Anderlecht’s main goal. Sunday’s crunch title clash with Club Brugge looms large and could mean top scorer Lukasz Teodorczyk starts from the bench.
United, meanwhile, are likely to recall their leading marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who started from the bench against Chelsea as Mourinho said the 35-year-old was “very tired”.
Dennis Appiah was not at Anderlecht when the veteran netted four for Paris St Germain in a Champions League clash in Brussels in 2013, but he saw the Swedish striker at his best last April.
Ibrahimovic scored twice and provided a further two as the defender’s Caen side were thrashed 6-0, so Appiah knows all too well what to expect.
“I think that you’re probably right, we didn’t see the best of him last week,” he said of the first leg. But you know you can maybe mark Zlatan for the whole game and for 80 minutes he might look he is not on his best match, but half an opportunity, half a chance, a tiny bit of space, and he can convert than into an opportunity or create an opportunity for someone else.
“We have got to be aware of that. You can’t leave him alone for a single second, you can’t give him too much space to operate.
“He is obviously a great player, he can make the difference.”