Manchester United took on Wednesday evening Saint-Etienne for the second leg of the Europa League after defeating them 3-0 at Old Trafford last Thursday. With Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw not featuring in the game, more doubts are raised on their futures as the England’s captain has an offer from China, while Luke Shaw is not convincing the manager.
As the game started, Saint-Etienne clearly showed that United wouldn’t just pass by there as they tried their luck from the first minutes. The midfield of three was again based on Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba and Fellaini with the Belgian replacing the suspended Ander Herrera. The first five minutes were quiet in contrast with the away end that kept on cheering the team.
As the minutes went by United were trying to cut wide and pressing forward, but not being successful. Finally, after some quiet minutes, a lovely ball from Juan Mata and a lucky touch from Henrikh Mkhitaryan sent United ahead and apparently that woke both teams as the French were trying to get back in the game. However, the defence seemed to do well as, despite the constant pressure from the opponent, Eric Bailly handled things well.
While being in control of the game, Daley Blind surely showed quality as the Dutch International kept handling the pressure well down the left, while on the other side Mkhitaryan wasn’t fast enough to benefit from a quick pass on the left. However, physical problems were affecting the Armenian as he left the pitch for Marcus Rashford.
The Englishman was indeed happy for the chance, showing off his skills and terrific pace but still not pulling the final move as he was caught offside a few times. On the other hand, Zlatan Ibrahimovic also tried his luck but unable to score as the ball was over the bar.
The French were trying to light the game but their efforts were surely meaningless as United administrated the game very well and the first half was closed under their domination.
The second half seemed more lively as Rashford was once again running wide and Saint Etienne tried to get something out of this game. Eric Bailly was once again there to prevent danger inside the area causing a free kick, which was terribly executed. United surely wasn’t satisfied by the way things were going and a second goal was required. first Fellaini and then Pogba tried to double the score and both were denied by the keeper.
Considering the way things were going, the name of Eric Bailly probably shouldn’t have been mentioned this much but the Ivory Coast international was sent off as he was booked twice in five minutes, leaving United with ten players, obligating Mourinho to make an unexpected move as Marcos Rojo came in for Juan Mata and just minutes before Michael Carrick was substituted by Bastian Schweinsteiger. The manager was indeed furious with the referee’s decision.
Being down to 10 men didn’t prevent United from doing their game as they were still up front fighting to get a second with Pogba again trying to score this time a header, but the ball was again out and it was again United keeping up with the rhythm as Blind with a brilliant cross to Rashford who was denied once again by the keeper. A quiet game so far for the big Swede as he hasn’t had many chances during the game but one of the best things is his connection with Pogba that from time has produced goals. However, things didn’t connect this time.
The following minutes were as well quiet as everything was closed and United were through the next round. The three minutes of added time didn’t have any effect in the game as the game was imposed by United and the sporadic chances the French team was producing didn’t worry or trouble Romero.
United made it through the next round by defeating Saint Etienne 4-0 on aggregate. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was more than enough for United as he scored early in the first half. No story, no news, United did their job.
Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 16′
Assists: Juan Mata 16′
Manchester United: Romero; Young, Smalling, Bailly, Blind; Carrick (Schweinsteiger 62′), Pogba; Mata (Rojo 64′), Fellaini, Mkhitaryan (Rashford 25′); Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Valencia; Martial, Lingard
Bookings: Eric Bailly 60′, sent off 63′