Don't write United off yet, says Darmian

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney during a training session ahead of the Europa League clash with Feyenoord at Old Trafford today. The United captain will be hoping he will get to start the match, after coming off the bench to good effect against Arse
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney during a training session ahead of the Europa League clash with Feyenoord at Old Trafford today. The United captain will be hoping he will get to start the match, after coming off the bench to good effect against Arsenal last weekend.PHOTO: REUTERS

Italian insists Red Devils 'still in the race' and need to be ready for a must-win home game

LONDON • Full-back Matteo Darmian believes Manchester United will beat Feyenoord at Old Trafford today as the English football club bid to reach the Europa League knockout stages from a difficult Group A.

Defeat by second-placed Feyenoord would put United - a point behind the top two - out if leaders Fenerbahce beat visiting Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk in their penultimate group match.

"I think it is a difficult group because we have to face a difficult opponent, but we are still in the race. We have an important game against Feyenoord and have to win. We'll prepare to make sure we're ready," Darmian told MUTV.

United lost 0-1 to Feyenoord in Rotterdam in September but are on a 13-game unbeaten streak at home in Europe, last losing to Real Madrid at Old Trafford in the 2012-13 season.

Feyenoord have not won in their last three European away games.

"I remember (playing Feyenoord away) because it was not a good game for us. We have to change this and win our away games, but for now we're playing at home and maybe that is a little bit easier," the Italian added.

The Europa League is the only major title United have not won and Darmian said the competition had become more attractive since the winners were guaranteed a Champions League spot.

United are sixth in the Premier League after 12 games, two places and six points below the Champions League spots.

"I think (the Europa league) is a big competition. (Winning it) gives us a big opportunity to get into the Champions League which is crucial for a club like Manchester United," Darmian said.

After a tough game against Arsenal last weekend and another big Premier League clash this Sunday against West Ham United, Jose Mourinho may well opt to rotate.

The manager has confirmed Henrikh Mkhitaryan will definitely play some part in what will be his second appearance of the month after his outing at Fenerbahce in the previous group-stage tie.

Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic could return to the starting XI after missing out at the weekend through suspension.

Centre-back Chris Smalling remains doubtful but, after impressing at the weekend, Phil Jones is in line for a third consecutive start.

Striker Wayne Rooney lost his place in Mourinho's starting line-up recently, but came off the bench to good effect last weekend against Arsenal.

The 31-year-old will be hoping he gets the nod against Feyenoord with United in need of a positive result.

But it will be tough going for the English side as Feyenoord are top of the Eredivisie, having lost just one league game all season.

They know a draw at Old Trafford keeps them in pole position to reach the last 32.

The bedrock of Feyenoord's progress has been an incredibly resolute defence. Giovanni van Brockhorst's side have conceded just seven goals in 13 league games.

The evergreen Dirk Kuyt continues to impress. The 36-year-old former Liverpool forward has netted five goals this season, and his boundless energy is a huge asset.

The suspension of excellent Brazilian defender Eric Botteghin is a blow, but Terence Kongolo is a competent replacement.

Former Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones and former Aston Villa midfielder Karim El Ahmadi are back fit.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2016, with the headline 'Don't write United off yet, says Darmian'. Print Edition | Subscribe