Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggested the weather conditions, a bobbly pitch and the Europa League ball contributed to Manchester United's disappointing draw away to Club Brugge.

Anthony Martial struck an away goal to cancel out Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis' opener and give United a slight advantage ahead of next week's return leg at Old Trafford.

Dennis capitalised on Sergio Romero misjudging a goal-kick from opposite number Simon Mignolet to put Brugge ahead, but Solskjaer felt conditions, the pitch and the ball all had an impact.

"It was a difficult game against a well-organised team in difficult conditions," he told a news conference.

"I don't think it was one of the best games that anyone's seen.

"We were a bit sloppy, concentration-wise, and the conditions, with the pitch and ball, made it hard.

"You can ask any of the players, that ball does not help when you want to play football.

"It's just different and difficult to play with, but it's the same for the two teams of course. It's light – you should get one and try it."

Brugge coach Philippe Clement rejected Solskjaer's complaint, though, and claimed Romero could have been dismissed in the second minute for a clumsy challenge on Dennis.

"We get the balls from UEFA, so it's not our ball," Clement told reporters. "In the Europa League games, it's the same balls, so I don't see a problem with that.

"For me, it's a clear penalty if I see the images, and in some countries, it's a red card. If you go with two feet forward against the leg of somebody, it's a red card.

"All the circumstances need to go your way if you're going to beat United, and tonight we didn't get that."

Rangers superbly came from behind to win 3-2 at home against Braga in the first leg of their last-32 tie after Fransergio scored a contender for the best goal of this season's Europa League.

Fransergio and Abel Ruiz struck either side of half-time to put the Portuguese side, who were unbeaten in 13 European matches, in complete control at Ibrox on Thursday.

But Ianis Hagi got one back for Steven Gerrard's side and, with 15 minutes to go, Joe Aribo danced through the Braga defence to slot home and level it up.

Hagi's free-kick then deflected off the wall to wrongfoot goalkeeper Matheus and complete an improbable comeback in front of a raucous crowd in Glasgow.

Braga started brilliantly, with Wallace missing a header from three yards and Francisco Trincao - who will join Barcelona in July for €31million - rifling just wide.

Fransergio then stunned the home fans with a beauty from over 30 yards out, his rocket of a strike clipping the underside of the crossbar to open the scoring in the 11th minute.

Matheus denied the competition's top scorer Alfredo Morelos twice in quick succession, but Trincao was running the show and he almost made it 2-0, a cute curling effort not quite bending enough.

Fransergio almost repeated his wondergoal after the interval, but this time his effort hit the top of the crossbar, with livewire Morelos then denied by a goal-line clearance from the alert Bruno Viana.

Debutant Ruiz, who joined from Barcelona last month, doubled Braga's lead with an excellent finish, but Hagi reduced the deficit with a left-footed strike from just inside the box that went in off the post.

The quality did not let up as Aribo equalised with a superb solo effort and, though Braga have a brace of away goals to take into next week's return leg, momentum is with Rangers after Hagi's fortuitous set-piece wrapped up the scoring.

Diogo Jota scored a second successive Europa League hat-trick as Wolves took complete control of their last-32 tie against Espanyol with a 4-0 first-leg win.

Wolves had failed to score in back-to-back Premier League matches but had no trouble in overcoming LaLiga's bottom-placed side at Molineux on Thursday.

Jota netted a treble when Wolves won by the same scoreline against Besiktas in December, and he opened the scoring here with a close-range finish inside 15 minutes before doubling his tally in the second half after Ruben Neves' sublime 25-yard volley put the hosts two ahead.

The Portugal international completed his latest hat-trick with nine minutes remaining to leave Espanyol, who were fortunate not to have Ander Iturraspe dismissed, with a mountain to climb in next week's return leg.

Alexandre Lacazette scored a late winner to secure Arsenal a 1-0 win at Olympiacos and hand the Gunners a significant advantage in their Europa League last-32 tie.

Mikel Arteta's men looked to be heading for an underwhelming goalless draw in Piraeus, but Lacazette struck nine minutes from time to get Arsenal a potentially vital away goal ahead of the return leg in London.

The Gunners had little difficulty taking control and should have netted early on when Lacazette was guilty of a dreadful miss, and the visitors failed to craft a better opportunity until late on.

Olympiacos generally appeared happy to hold on for a stalemate, but that approach backfired when Lacazette turned in Bukayo Saka's pass, putting Arsenal in complete control of the tie.

After surviving an early scare when Bernd Leno denied Mathieu Valbuena, Lacazette missed a glorious chance for the Gunners, somehow shooting wide from about eight yards having been teed up by Gabriel Martinelli.

Leno had to be alert again a few moments later, making a reaction save after Giorgos Masouras' cross was deflected goalwards by David Luiz.

A second opportunity came Lacazette's way just before the break, but Ousseynou Ba crucially got a touch to divert his fierce volley over the crossbar.

The contest became a cagier affair after the break, with Arsenal controlling possession but doing little to hurt an Olympiacos side seemingly content to absorb pressure.

But Arsenal finally produced some spark in attack through Saka in the 81st minute, the 18-year-old talent driving at the defence and feeding Lacazette, who tapped in from close range.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos almost doubled Arsenal's advantage when his late header came back off the crossbar.

Robin van Persie described Bruno Fernandes as "a joy to watch" despite the midfielder playing just 15 minutes of Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Club Brugge.

An away goal from Anthony Martial cancelled out Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis' opener in Belgium to give United a slight edge in the Europa League last-32 tie.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made six changes to his starting line-up from the 2-0 Premier League win at Chelsea just three days ago, with January signing Fernandes one of those to drop to the bench.

United's midfield looked laboured in tricky conditions until Fred came on for Andreas Pereira after 71 minutes, and once Fernandes was introduced for Diogo Dalot 10 minutes later, the Red Devils suddenly had the game under control.

Despite playing just nine minutes of the 90 and six of stoppage time, Fernandes attempted more shots (four) than any of his team-mates while completing 100 per cent of his passes.

Former United striker Van Persie was particularly impressed with the Portugal international, who joined from Sporting CP last month for an initial €55million fee.

"He was unbelievable," Van Persie said in his role as a pundit on BT Sport. "With top players, you can tell straight away that he has something. He was silky on the ball and a joy to watch."

United went behind when Simon Mignolet's goal kick ran through to Dennis, who beat Dalot and Brandon Williams to the ball before lobbing Sergio Romero, who had rushed far from his goal.

Brugge gifted United their equaliser, though, with Brandon Mechele hesitating after Maxim De Cuyper's throw-in, allowing Martial to surge forward and score his 14th goal of the season.

Juan Mata was frustrated not to win the match but accepted United did not do enough early in the contest.

"We wanted to win," he told MUTV. "In the second half, we pressed better and we played more time in their half and had chances to maybe score the second.

"But they started well. They play good with the ball and they defend very compact without the ball, they put a lot of bodies in the back and we couldn't find the spaces in the first half.

"They scored a goal we shouldn't concede; we scored a goal from their mistake. We wanted to win. Obviously, 1-1 is not a very bad result, but we wanted to win."

Christian Eriksen is yet to reach peak physical condition after joining Inter from Tottenham, according to head coach Antonio Conte.

Eriksen, who signed for the Serie A club in January, scored his first goal for Inter in Thursday's 2-0 Europa League last-32 win away at Ludogorets.

The Denmark international opened the scoring with a fine strike and also hit the crossbar with a powerful drive before Romelu Lukaku's late penalty put the Nerazzurri in complete control ahead of next week's second leg in Milan.

However, Conte feels there is a lot more to come from Eriksen.

"I'm happy for him, the goal always gives confidence," Conte told Sky Sport Italia after Inter bounced back from successive domestic defeats in Bulgaria.

"Christian just needs to work to find the right physical condition, to find the brilliance of his best moments at Tottenham.

"He can do even more than what he showed us today, but we are very happy because we know what he can give us."

Inter were again without goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, although deputy Daniele Padelli was completely untested as Ludogorets mustered only a single shot.

"It is a situation that we monitor day by day," Conte said of Handanovic, who has a hand injury.

"We have confidence in Daniele Padelli, and when he is ready to resume his place, he will. Until then, we continue with Padelli."

Christian Eriksen's first goal for Inter helped Antonio Conte's men earn a battling 2-0 away win against Ludogorets in the opening leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

The Serie A side were not at their best at Ludogorets Arena on Thursday but scored the opener from the best move of the match, Eriksen curling home from the edge of the box.

January signing Eriksen hit the crossbar from distance and Romelu Lukaku's late penalty confirmed a victory for the Nerazzurri that saw them bounce back from successive domestic defeats.

Inter, who began with Lukaku on the bench, struggled to impose themselves in the opening exchanges but Ludogorets goalkeeper Plamen Iliev had to make a smart stop to keep out Cristiano Biraghi's volley in the 25th minute.

The upright kept out Alexis Sanchez's clever flick after the restart, then Lautaro Martinez lashed a long-range strike narrowly over the crossbar as Inter increased the tempo.

Iliev made another fine save to turn away Eriksen's bouncing 20-yard volley, but the goalkeeper could do nothing about Inter's first goal in the 71st minute.

Sanchez and substitute Lukaku were involved in patient passing in the build-up, with Eriksen sweeping an excellent finish out of Iliev's reach.

It was almost 2-0 moments later as Eriksen's thumping drive beat Iliev but not the woodwork, Lukaku's arrival having given Ludogorets more to think about in defence.

Ludogorets, who were without their star striker Claudiu Keseru due to injury, failed to record a shot on target and face an uphill battle at San Siro next week after Lukaku converted from 12 yards in added time following Anicet Andrianantenaina's handball.


What does it mean? Inter get the job done

After consecutive defeats in the Coppa Italia and in Serie A to Napoli and Lazio respectively, Inter again found it difficult to produce their best football but they ground out a much-needed win. It is doubtful whether Conte values Europa League success over the Scudetto, though.

Iliev unlucky to miss out on clean sheet

Ludogorets had their backs against the wall for much of the game and relied on goalkeeper Iliev to keep them in the tie. He made a handful of excellent stops in a superb individual showing.

Martinez unable to justify Messi praise

Labelled "spectacular" by Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi in the build-up to the game, reported Barcelona target Martinez made very little impact before he was replaced by regular strike partner Lukaku.

What's next?

Ahead of next week's second leg, Inter host Sampdoria on Sunday while Bulgarian league leaders Ludogorets are away to Etar on the same day.

Celtic were the much better side in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie against Copenhagen, but the Scottish champions were ultimately grateful to claim a 1-1 draw at Parken thanks to Fraser Forster's wonderful late penalty save.

Neil Lennon's men claimed a deserved lead through Odsonne Edouard on Thursday, having failed to score in their last nine away knockout games in Europe, and looked superior to their hosts for long periods.

However, Dame N'Doye grabbed a 52nd-minute equaliser for Copenhagen and Jens Stage had the chance to seal victory with a penalty awarded with the aid of VAR, only for Forster to tip his spot-kick on to the left-hand post.

Celtic will now be confident of securing progress in next week's return tie in Glasgow, although they may wonder how they did not win this encounter by a comfortable margin.

Edouard was twice denied by Karl-Johan Johnsson inside the first four minutes, the Copenhagen goalkeeper also combining with Ragnar Sigurdsson to keep out a follow-up to the second effort from Olivier Ntcham.

It proved a case of third time lucky for Edouard when he was presented with another chance in the 14th minute. The prolific striker calmly clipped the ball past Johnsson after fine work from Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor.

The impressive visitors remained in the ascendancy prior to the interval, Copenhagen's only effort of the first half coming when Bryan Oviedo curled a shot wide on his weaker right foot.

However, Copenhagen came out for the second period with renewed vigour and they equalised when N'Doye fired home off the left-hand post from Rasmus Falk Jensen's pass after Ntcham had been robbed of possession.

McGregor blazed a shot wastefully over the bar, a Christie cross from the right almost found the far corner and Edouard was again denied by Johnsson as Celtic quickly regained the upper hand.

Copenhagen were given the opportunity to snatch a scarcely deserved win when a VAR review penalised Christie for handball at a corner, but Forster reacted superbly to deny Stage from 12 yards.

At the other end, home goalkeeper Johnsson rounded off a wonderful performance by denying James Forrest at his near post.

Anthony Martial struck a potentially important away goal as Manchester United drew 1-1 with Club Brugge in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

The France international cancelled out an opening goal from Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side a slight advantage heading into the return game at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer made six changes to the team that won 2-0 at Chelsea on Monday, and it was one of the fresh starters, goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who was at fault for the opening goal.

Brugge, who drew 2-2 at Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage and only narrowly lost to Paris Saint-Germain, were good value for their lead until Martial capitalised on a defensive mistake and a fast pitch to run through and make sure the game finished all square.

Andreas Pereira had United's first attempt after 14 minutes, with Simon Mignolet pushing his low effort past the right-hand post.

The Red Devils found themselves behind just a minute later. Dennis raced onto a Mignolet goal kick and, with Romero having strayed foolishly far from his line, the forward lobbed the ball over the United keeper, who could only watch it bobble into the net.

United were stuck in first gear and Romero had to be well-positioned to deny Dennis a second from close range after the visitors failed to clear from the edge of the box.

Brugge's lead looked comfortable until they handed United an equaliser. Maxim De Cuyper's throw-in from inside the opposition half bounced away from Brandon Mechele, and Martial pounced, driving towards goal and slotting the ball past Mignolet.

Martial nearly scored a second before the break, shrugging off De Cuyper before blasting a left-footed shot that Mignolet just tipped onto the post.

Chances were scarcer in a second half mostly bereft of quality, although Odilon Kossounou scuffed wide from eight yards out when he really should have at least tested Romero.

United finished strongly but could not carve out a chance for a winner, leaving the tie nicely poised ahead of next Thursday's return fixture.

 

What does it mean? United will be thankful for draw

Having played just three days ago and been met with dreadful weather conditions in Bruges, this is a result with which Solskjaer will likely be quite content.

It was a game short on quality throughout, not helped by the playing surface, but Martial's excellent finish will leave the Red Devils feeling as though they have the edge.

Martial leading from the front

Martial's clinical finish put United ahead at Chelsea, and he showed similar composure to snatch an away goal just when Brugge looked to be in control of the first leg.

Williams looking weary

Brandon Williams had plenty of defending to do against a Chelsea team that targeted United's left, so it was surprising to see him keep his place. He looked as though a rest might have done him good.

What's next?

The second leg takes place on February 27. Before then, United host Watford in the Premier League on Sunday, while Brugge face Sporting Charleroi at home.

Mikel Arteta confirmed Matteo Guendouzi was dropped for Sunday's 4-0 Premier League win over Newcastle United due to his attitude in training.

The France youth international was reported to have been involved in a bust-up with Arteta at the club's warm weather training camp in Dubai during the mid-season break.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of his side's Europa League clash with Olympiacos on Thursday, Arteta revealed the 20-year-old's absence was related to issues with how he was training.

"I just do my team selection in regards to how they train, how they play, how they behave and every week it will be different," he said.

"One week it will be one reason, one week it will be another reason. It was about the way we trained, the way we live and I want the best players for the game and I select them in relation to what I see on a daily basis."

Guendouzi has been named in Arteta's squad for the last-32 first-leg clash in Athens, but the Spaniard refused to confirm if he will be selected in the starting XI.

He added: "We had a break of 15 days. We played just one game so I'm going to send out a team that I think is the best to play.

"The rest of the game will take care of itself. We cannot control everything. Sometimes you think about resting somebody and in training he gets a little issue or he gets sick.

"So, we will send out a team that we think is the best to beat Olympiacos and the rest of the teams after that will take care of themselves."

Arteta has also not ruled out that Pablo Mari could feature for the Gunners for the first time against Olympiacos.

Mari is yet to appear for the first team since joining on loan from Brazilian side Flamengo in January, but Arteta has suggested that he could be involved soon after coming through a reserve team game earlier this week unscathed.

Arteta, who was not present at the match, said: "I could not be there for a personal reason. I was pleased they [his staff] were there.

"His [Mari] commitment has been really good. He did well the other day and hopefully soon we can start to use him."

Christian Eriksen can help to raise Inter's collective level once he adapts to the side, according to head coach Antonio Conte.

The Denmark international has featured five times for Inter since completing a reported €20m (£16.9m) move from Tottenham in the January transfer window.

He has been restricted to one start and has yet to score or assist a goal for his new club, but Conte has called for patience before seeing the best of Eriksen in an Inter shirt.

"I see too much anxiety and little serenity," he said at Wednesday's news conference. "There is great serenity on our part. 

"The player wants to make himself available and we are calm.

"Every single player must think about improving himself, without thinking about who is next to him. We need individual growth, which can be put into the collective."

Conte will wait until Thursday before deciding whether to start Eriksen in the first leg of Inter's Europa League last-32 tie with Ludogorets.

Alexis Sanchez is also in line to feature from the start at Ludogorets Arena and Conte expects to see more from the on-loan forward once he gets a run of games under his belt.

"He has come back from a bad injury - he's been out for three months," Conte told reporters. 

"He is recovering well and is ready to start the game. We are talking about a player who hasn't played much in the last two years.

"He has to find the best physical shape and in this way it can help us achieve our goals."

Inter make the trip to Bulgaria on the back of just a second Serie A loss of the campaign last weekend, a 2-1 defeat to Lazio seeing them drop to third in Serie A.

"We were disappointed by the result, but not the performance," Conte said. "Lazio are one of the form sides in Italy right now.

"We put in a good performance and resume with our belief and our desire to improve - that must be our only objective.

"We're in Europe and it's right to give it our best, respect the competition as much as possible."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said Paul Pogba is "not anywhere near ready" to return to team training with Manchester United as speculation over his long-term future intensifies.

The France World Cup winner has not featured for the Red Devils since the 4-1 Boxing Day win over Newcastle United as he continues his recovery from ankle surgery.

Solskjaer had suggested after Monday's 2-0 win over Chelsea that Pogba was due to resume training this week but changed his stance when previewing Thursday's Europa League clash with Club Brugge.

"Paul has not been part of the team training yet," boss Solskjaer said.

"So, it'll depend on how he feels or when he feels ready to do that, so he's not anywhere near that yet."

The latest update from Solskjaer will do little to assuage reports Pogba is heading for an Old Trafford exit at the end of the season, with a return to former club Juventus having been heavily mooted in recent weeks.

This week, Solskjaer has been involved in a back-and-forth with Pogba's agent Mino Raiola, who published a statement on Twitter prior to the Chelsea game that read: "Paul is not mine and for sure not Solskjaer's property, Paul is Paul Pogba's. You cannot own a human being already for a long time in the UK or anywhere else. I HOPE Solskjaer DO NOT WANT TO SUGGEST THAT PAUL IS HIS PRISONER."

Solskjaer later said he would not be drawn into a war of words and Raiola attempted to cool the feud, even going as far as to suggest Pogba could be open to the idea of a new contract.

Mesut Ozil was a notable absentee as Arsenal headed to Greece on Wednesday ahead of their Europa League clash with Olympiacos.

The German playmaker stayed at home "due to personal reasons", Arsenal said.

Arsenal did not provide further information, but reports said Ozil's wife, Amine Gulse, was close to giving birth.

Head coach Mikel Arteta will have limited options in the centre of the park for the first leg of the last-16 tie.

For Arteta, the fixture is his first European game in charge of the team since succeeding previous first-team boss Unai Emery.

Ozil's fellow midfielder Lucas Torreira also did not travel, with the Uruguayan unwell but being assessed with a view to him taking a later flight to Athens should his health show a "significant improvement".

The unavailability of Ozil means the World Cup winner has missed all four of Arsenal's Europa League away games this season.

Scott McTominay took part in team training on Wednesday as Manchester United prepare to face Club Brugge in the Europa League.

The midfielder has been out of action since damaging knee ligaments in the 4-1 Premier League win over Newcastle United on December 26.

The 23-year-old was involved in the open session at the Aon Training Complex as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side prepared for their visit to Belgium.

Victor Lindelof was also present after sitting out Monday's 2-0 win over Chelsea due to illness, while Axel Tuanzebe, who has not featured since December, was also involved.

On-loan striker Odion Igahlo took part, but youngster Mason Greenwood was missing.

Solskjaer also brought 18-year-old Connor Stanley into the session, the winger having not travelled with the rest of the squad for a youth friendly against Club Brugge.

United face Brugge in the first leg of the Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday before hosting the Belgian side at Old Trafford a week later.

Manchester United cannot keep changing their manager and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be given time to prove his worth, according to Robin van Persie.

Van Persie and Solskjaer had a public feud last month when the Dutchman urged the United boss to show more anger after a defeat to Arsenal.

Solskjaer did not take kindly to the suggestion, saying while Van Persie took his famous number 20 shirt at Old Trafford, he had no right to criticise his managerial style, vowing not to change.

But despite that spat and the club sitting seventh in the Premier League, the ex-United forward feels constant managerial changes are not beneficial.

If Solskjaer is United's man, Van Persie says they simply have to give him time.

"Especially after Alex Ferguson left, everyone realised that it would be tough to stick to that level that Ferguson achieved for all of those years," Van Persie, speaking courtesy of Enterprise rent-a-car, told Omnisport.

"I think everyone could see that. Now [David] Moyes has been there, [Louis] van Gaal, [Jose] Mourinho and Solskjaer. 

"Ferguson took time to adjust and get to a certain level. I don't think that it's ideal for the club to keep changing the manager every one or two years. 

"If you go for Solskjaer, go for him and give him time, that is what I think because the club needs to find some stability."

United had an encouraging 2-0 win at Chelsea on Monday, putting them within three points of the top four in the Premier League.

Van Persie was impressed by the display but feels a lack of consistency is holding United back against elite competition in the form of Liverpool and Manchester City.

"Now they win against Chelsea and to be fair they had a good game," added Van Persie.

"But you never know what's going to happen in the next few games. It's not consistent enough to be able to really play for the trophies. 

"It is difficult because you have to compete against Liverpool, who are unbelievable and Manchester City, who are brilliant. 

"Manchester City are not on the same level this year, but based on the last couple of years, they and Liverpool have been unbelievable. 

"That is the level United have to go to, that is consistency, and that is the hardest thing in football because the league is tough. 

"Even if you play against teams like Burnley away, teams like that are really difficult to get points against. You have to get everything right and that is a big challenge to get that consistency."

With United bidding to get back into the Champions League through a top-four finish, the Europa League gives them another avenue to the continent's elite club competition.

Solskjaer's men play Club Brugge in Belgium on Thursday in the first leg of their last-32 tie, with Van Persie seeing Ajax as the biggest rivals to United and Arsenal, another of his former teams.

"Arsenal and Manchester surely are the favourites to win," he said. 

"Ajax were knocked out of the Champions League in a harsh manner. That is also part of the game, unfortunately. They also have a chance at winning the Europa League and have a very good squad too.

"In the Europa League, Premier League clubs tend to field a mix of players up until the knockout phase. From this point on, they tend to use their best 11. Up until now it's been a mix between first-team players and substitutes. 

"I think they are in it to win it. That is the way they should prepare because it is a great title that is up for grabs."

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