Manchester United have the opportunity to get back to Europe once again. The only thing they have to do is to beat the Belgian side Club Brugge in the two legs of playoff scheduled tonight and 27th August.
Manchester United missed out on Europe for the first time in 19 years after a disappointing seventh-placed finish in the 2013-14 Premier League season.
However, manager Louis van Gaal delivered a return to Europe’s top competition during his debut season in charge at Old Trafford, but they must negotiate a tricky tie against the Belgian Pro League side to reach the group stages.
Here are five things you need to know about the Belgian club:
Club Brugge Koninklijke Voetbalvereniging is the full name of the club. It is based in Bruges in Belgium. The club was established in 1891, just seven years after Manchester United.
The club’s home ground is the Jan Breydel Stadium, which has a capacity of 29,472. They are known as “Blauw-Zwart” which means Blue-Black.
History and success:
Club Brugge is the second most decorated club in Belgian football winning 13 Belgian League titles, second only to Belgian giants R.S.C. Anderlecht. Throughout its long history, Club Brugge has enjoyed much European football success, reaching two European finals and two European semi-finals.
Club Brugge is the only Belgian club to have played the final of the European Cup so far, losing to Liverpool in the final of the 1978 season. They also lost in the 1976 UEFA Cup Final to the same opponents. Club Brugge holds the record number of consecutive participations in the UEFA Cup (16), the record number of Belgian cups (11) and the record number of Belgian Supercup (13).
Club Brugge finished as runners-up of the Belgian Pro League in 2014-15. They finished first in the regular season with 61 points on the board from 30 games. But in Belgian League, the system of getting champions is complicated. The first six teams from the regular season qualify for the championship playoff and another league is played by those six.
Points from the regular season are divided in half and rounded up and then added to the points from the championship playoff. Had any ties occurred at the end of the playoffs, the half point would have been deducted if it was added. However, as all six teams received the half point bonus, this did not make a difference last season.
Club Brugge finished the season with 47 points and overtaken by Gent who was crowned as champions.
They topped Group B in Europa League group stage last season ahead of Torino, HJK and Copenhagen. They went up to the quarter-finals where they lost against finalists Dnipro. They defeated AaB, Besiktas on their way in the round of 32 and 16.
They won Belgian Cup last season beating arch rivals Anderlecht 2-1 in the final.
Michel Georges Jean Ghislain Preud’Homme is the manager of the club. He is commonly known as Michel Preud’homme.
He is a former Belgian professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper. He was considered one of the world’s best goalkeepers during his career for his amazing saves, terrific reflexes and agility, and the first winner of the Yashin Award as the best goalkeeper at the 1994 World Cup.
On the club level, Preud’homme played for Standard Liège, Mechelen, and Benfica. He retired as a player in 1999, aged 40. For Belgium, Preud’homme was capped 58 times. His individual award cabinet is also decorated with two Belgian Golden shoes, two-time Belgian player of the year award, 1 UEFA Goalkeeper of the year award, 1 World Goalkeeper of the Year award.
He is a manager since 2001 and managed Standard Liege twice, Gent, Twente, Al-Shabab and then took charge at Club Brugge.
He has success as a manager just like he had as a player with one Belgian Pro League, two Belgian Cups and many more.
He is two times Belgian Professional Manager of the Year.
The 56-year-old manager previously served as director of football at Benfica, he was responsible for giving Jose Mourinho his first break in management in 2000.
Three Key Players:
Victor Vazquez- The 28-year-old attacking midfielder was the Belgian Footballer of the Year last season. The former Barcelona player wears the number 7 shirt and is a key player for the team.
Ruud Vormer- The 27-year-old former AZ, Roda and Feyenoord midfielder is a key player for the Belgian team’s midfield.
Lior Refaelov- The 29-year-old Israel international plays a pivotal role for the club. The midfielder has some fitness issues against Manchester United and the Belgian giants will miss a player of his caliber.