Manchester United will kick off their Europa League campaign on Thursday after failing to qualify for the Champions League. They will kick off their campaign against Dutch club Feyenoord, but who are they and what should United be expecting?
Feyenoord are a club with plenty of European experience. Former Gunner Giovanni van Bronckhorst is the manager and although last season started off badly, he has managed to turn things around at the club. Their stadium holds more than 50,000 and it will not be an easy place for Jose Mourinho’s team to play, despite what many thought when the initial draw was made.
How they made it to the Europa League
Feyenoord had a terrible start to the 2015/16 campaign and there were suggestions that the manager should be sacked. They were lurking aorund midtable at Christmas time and the prospect of European football seemed impossible at that stage. But the team turned it around and put together an impressive string of results to finish in 3rd place. They were around 20 points behind the top two though, in Ajax and PSV, both of whom secured Champions League spots. Feyenoord did in the end finish 4 points ahead of 4th placed AZ Alkmaar.
This time around, Feyenoord don’t look like making the same mistakes with a false start, and if they can play consistently their best football, then I would expect them to be seriously challenging the big two this season. In the league so far they have maximum points, winning 5 from 5 and therefore topping the table. Impressively they have scored 15 and conceded just 2 goals so far this season. PSV and Ajax are not far behind though, and near-perfection is needed to top the Eredivisie.
Eljero Elia has been in great form, scoring 3 goals in just 2 games. But the key man for me is former Liverpool forward, Dirk Kuyt. Kuyt tends to play in midfield now and his experience helps him pull the strings for the Dutch side. He’s also started the season bang in form, with 3 goals and an assist to his name. Jens Toornstra is a quality attack-minded midfielder that United will have to watch out for, he’s scored 2 and assisted 3 already this season. Being the Dutch league, Feyenoord’s attackers average around 4 shots each on goal per game, they won’t get anywhere near that against United though and will need to be more strategic about when they choose to shoot and ensure they take their chances when they get them.