With a two-goal advantage heading to Bruges, Louis van Gaal knows that it will take an almighty upset to see his Manchester United side missing from the Champions League group draw for a second successive year.
Yet their task should not be taken lightly, for the side who took a surprise lead at Old Trafford last week have a formidable record at the Jan Breydel Stadium, having lost only twice on home soil since the start of 2014.
That’s a run comprising 44 competitive matches, while Michel Preud’homme’s team also boast a handy recent European record as hosts, being unbeaten on the continent in their last ten.
How Van Gaal opts to approach this game will decide whether United fans are biting their nails with ten minutes to go, or discussing which seeded sides they might want to avoid in Thursday’s draw.
Leading 3-1 from the first leg, the Dutchman knows that goals are not a requirement for his club to progress.
Nonetheless, following a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Newcastle at the weekend and in a season that has delivered only two league goals from three games, compared to Manchester City’s free-flowing eight goals in the same time, Van Gaal may well see the second leg as an opportunity for United to rediscover their shooting boots against the Belgians.
Last week it was Memphis Depay who did the main damage, scoring two wonderful goals from out wide and, with the home side needing to attack, Depay’s pace on the counter could well see a repeat performance. The Dutchman is 17/4 to score first.
But while a positive performance from their forwards would be an undoubted bonus, given the importance the club hierarchy have placed on Champions League qualification, not to mention the manager’s own noted pragmatism, Van Gaal is unlikely to favour any approach that will leave his defence at risk.
It makes a first-team role for the man who scored the crucial third last week, Marouane Fellaini, a distinct possibility. The Belgian was born only an hour away from where the tie will be played and, for all of his critics and noted flaws, the towering midfielder brings a physicality to this United side that no other squad member can match.
Where David Moyes struggled, Van Gaal has added a role and purpose to the 6ft 5in Fellaini and, while it may not always be pretty, it sure is effective. At Old Trafford, it took only ten minutes for him to do what the man he replaced off the bench – Wayne Rooney – is yet to do this season, scoring with a well-taken header from a wonderful Depay cross.
It was a clear indication that this Club Brugge defence may not appreciate the added height, given they had dealt fairly comfortably with Rooney before that.
So while Fellaini may not be the answer if the question is about fast-flowing counter attacks or slick passing moves, his aerial prowess is the perfect solution to providing a presence in both boxes.
The big 27-year-old is 2/1 to score any time but, should his role be restricted to that of substitute once again, the 13/2 on him to score last may be the wiser, not to mention more profitable, punt.