Manchester United v Copenhagen: Ole won't suffer Danish disaster

Europa League favourites Manchester United have arguably the kindest quarter-final draw, and Kevin Hatchard doesn't believe they'll squander the opportunity...

Manchester United v Copenhagen
Monday August 10, 20:00
Live on BT Sport

United a step closer to glorious sign-off

There are those that still deride the Europa League (especially in England, for some curious reason), but it remains a major European trophy, and it remains the last thing that Manchester United won. Three years is a long time for one of the world's biggest football clubs to miss out on silverware, and that won't have been lost on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who wraps the history of the Red Devils around himself like a comforting blanket.

United's dismissal of Club Brugge and LASK Linz was impressive, and now they face another team they are expected to flatten. Having rested a slew of key players for the second leg of the LASK tie (United were already 5-0 from the first leg, and won 2-1 anyway at Old Trafford) Solskjaer can now deploy the big guns. Dynamic midfielder Bruno Fernandes should continue his impressive start as a United player, while the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood offer pace and incisiveness in attack. It shows just how much Solskjaer has been able to turn the season around that Paul Pogba's camp are making noises about a new contract.

United have suffered just one defeat in their last 23 matches, and barring that strangely anaemic FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea at Wembley, they have thrived away from Old Trafford. United have won seven of their last nine away games, and their pace on the counter means they are set up to travel. Given that they have no major injury concerns and a kind quarter-final draw, you can see why they are favourites to win the Europa League at 3.00.

Whatever happens, Copenhagen have already won

When Rasmus Falk raced unopposed to the edge of the Istanbul Basaksehir box and fired a shot into the bottom corner, Copenhagen knew they had made history. For the first time ever, the club from Denmark's capital had reached the quarter-finals of a major European competition. Not only was the scoreline impressive (Copenhagen won 3-0 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate) but the manner of the victory caught the eye. Rising star Jonas Wind scored a diving header and a beautifully taken penalty, while Falk's raids down the left were a thorn in the side of the Turkish champions.

Copenhagen coach Stale Solbakken knows his Norwegian compatriot and opposing manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer well. They played together for their country, and did their coaching badges together. Solbakken's experience of English football wasn't as positive as Solskjaer's - he had a brief and unsuccessful spell as Wolves manager, a six-month sojourn that ended in ignominy, and his one season as a player in the Premier League soured after he fell out with irascible manager Joe Kinnear.

Solbakken tends to take such setbacks in his stride. When he was 33, a heart problem meant that he was clinically dead for seven minutes, and such a reminder of mortality is bound to change your perspective. He has had other setbacks as a manager (his spell at German club Köln was a disaster) but in Copenhagen he has thrived. Across two spells as coach he has delivered eight league titles and four Danish Cups, and now he has broken new continental ground.

Copenhagen have no suspension or injury concerns. Former United full-back Guillermo Varela should start, with ex-Ajax defender Nicolai Boilesen on the other side of the back four. Veteran striker Dame N'Doye refused to extend his contract, and his loss is a blow, so the attacking thrust will have to come from Falk, Wind and Spanish player Pep Biel.

United to cruise through

Copenhagen have done superbly to get this far, but this is surely the end of the road. United were able to give their top players a break, and having taken the pressure off by qualifying for the Champions League via a top-four finish, they should be able to express themselves here.

When United win, they tend to win big. 12 of their last 14 victories in all competitions have been by at least two goals, and I think they are worth backing -1.5 on the Asian Handicap here at 1.83.

Fernandes value to continue scoring run

I always think Bruno Fernandes is worth considering in the To Score market. He takes penalties, he loves a shot, and he's playing in a team that plays on the front foot. The Portuguese international has scored in five of his last eight games, and I'll back him to improve that record at 6/5 on the Sportsbook.

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