Rio Ferdinand expects Manchester United to secure a place in last four of the Europa League but has warned his former side against complacency ahead of their quarter-final clash with Copenhagen.
The Red Devils thumped LASK 7-1 on aggregate in last round and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have been installed as favourites to win the trophy they lifted three years ago, over the likes of Inter Milan, Sevilla and Bayer Leverkusen.
A 5-0 victory in United’s first leg against LASK gave Solskjaer the opportunity to rest a number of his first-team stars at Old Trafford last Wednesday, with Daniel James, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata supporting Odion Ighalo in attack.
Former United defender Ferdinand believes Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes will all return in a strong starting XI at Cologne’s RheinEnergieStadion.
And while Ferdinand is confident United will progress, he has urged Solskjaer’s players to maintain focus throughout or else risk ‘coming a cropper’ at the hands of Copenhagen, as Celtic experienced earlier this season.
Discussing Solskjaer’s team selection versus LASK with Darren Fletcher, Ferdinand told BT Sport: ‘It was a case of resting some players for the game that’s coming up and I think he’ll have the three Ms up top (Martial, Rashford, Greenwood).
‘I’m not looking to see anyone else there and Bruno Fernandes behind that.
‘I fancy Man United to go through but like me and [Darren] Fletcher experienced, if your head’s not on it and you’re expecting to win easily, you can very much come a cropper.
Copenhagen produced a counter-attacking masterclass at Celtic Park to knock the Scottish champions out of the Europa League back in February but Ferdinand is confident United will be too strong this evening.
‘The attacking players than Man United have got compared to the players that Celtic have got… it’s a big difference,’ he added.
‘I’d be surprised if they [Copenhagen] left two up because in today’s game you very rarely see that – so maybe one up with one behind.
‘To have two up in today’s game against a team like Manchester United with what they’ve been doing since we had the break I think would be very, very brave of Copenhagen but I wouldn’t put it past them.’
Ferdinand feels triumphing in this year’s Europa League could be the first step in Solskjaer’s attempts to build a culture of winning at the club.
‘This could be part of setting a new culture at the football club,’ the ex-England centre-back continued.
‘I think the club has been missing that for the last seven or eight years – it’s a sustained period of winning you’re looking for, not that sporadic trophy here and there.
‘It’s challenging for the league on a yearly basis and then getting your foot in finals every year.
‘If they can get that culture now with these young players coming in and the way that Ole’s really trying to mould this team, we’ll be in for a good future but we’ve got to execute.’
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