Former Belgium international Philippe Albert has told ESPN that Anderlecht could pose a serious threat to Manchester United if the English side underestimate their Europa League quarterfinal opponents.
The Belgian league leaders host United in the first leg of their last-eight tie in Brussels on Thursday and Albert, 49, said that his former club can put the visitors in difficulty.
“I think so — if all the players play to the maximum of their potential,” Albert said. “I don’t know if Manchester United have injuries because they played at Sunderland with a team that had a lot of changes. So I don’t know what team they will put out on Thursday evening.
“But if Manchester look down on Anderlecht a bit by saying to themselves ‘They’re a Belgian team, it’s OK, we’re already in the semifinals’ then maybe they risk having some problems. If all the players are at 100 percent, it will not be easy on Thursday for Manchester.”
Anderlecht have enjoyed success against Premier League sides relatively recently, coming from 3-0 down to draw with Arsenal in a Champions League clash in London in November 2014 and beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in Belgium in a Europa League group stage match a year later.
They failed to win the Belgian Pro League in those two seasons, however, and Albert thinks that unheralded Swiss coach Rene Weiler has built a much stronger side since replacing Besnik Hasi as manager over the summer.
“They’re tougher — physically they’re prepared a lot more,” former Newcastle defender Albert added. “They’re a lot sharper.
“They have a more direct game too. When Anderlecht benefit from space, things move very quickly so it could be interesting against a team like Manchester United.”
Midifelder Youri Tielemans, in particular, has flourished under Weiler. The 19-year-old has 13 goals — many of them from long range — and nine assists in the league this season. He has also scored five times in European competition.
“He started very young,” Albert said. “He was 16 when he made his debut for the first team so he was still a kid. With the new manager, he’s really become aware of his potential.
“He became a father a few weeks ago and that brings with it responsibility off the pitch as well. But on the pitch he’s lost three, four or five kilos and that’s made the difference in his game.
“He’s become a leader of the team because he’s already been a fully-fledged starter for three years. And if he continues like that then at the end of the season or next season he’ll be made for a big championship like in Germany, England or Spain. I’m certain of that.”
Following a busy summer transfer window, Anderlecht had a rocky start to the season. It took until November for Weiler’s ideas to fully take hold, according to Albert, but results started to go his way as his team become much more stylish and effective.
Goals have flowed freely since then, although complacency against St Etienne saw Anderlecht finish second in their Europa League group — behind the French side — despite scoring 16 times in six games.
Striker Lukasz Teodorczyk has excelled in his first season at Anderlecht, scoring 20 goals in the league already and netting seven times in nine starts in the Europa League.
“Teodorczyk, especially at the start of the season when Anderlecht were trying to find their feet a little bit, he scored every week,” Albert said. “That helped Weiler a bit too.
“In the past few weeks, on the other hand, he’s had a little bad patch. But other players who weren’t in form at the start of the season are in form now. Goals are coming from everywhere.
“Tielemans can score, Sofiane Hanni can score, [Nicolae] Stanciu, [Alexandru] Chipciu, Teodorczyk. At the start of the season it was only Teodorczyk.”
Share This Post