Report: United leave it late to earn semi-final position; Rashford the star

Manchester United beat Anderlecht 2-1 at Old Trafford on Thursday evening, 3-2 on aggregate but needed extra time to win the match. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the opening goal in the tenth minute of the match, with Anderlecht equalising in the 32nd minute. Marcos Rojo was injured in the 23rd minute of the match and stretchered off, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was injured in the last-minute of normal time, which could see his season being over. Marcus Rashford took the plaudits with a sublime goal in the 107th minute, making it one goal and one assist this evening. Manchester United were through to the semi-final of the Europa League for the first time.

Jose Mourinho made five changes from Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea with Sergio Romero, Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to the starting XI. United started the game on the front foot, getting forward and pressuring the Belgian side from the off. Jesse Lingard had a good chance to create something, but Anderlecht regained possession, nipping the attack in the bud. Anderlecht soon got their plans together, going on the attack with Marcos Rojo having to thwart the attack. Leander Dendoncker then got a shot towards goal from 30-yards, which went over the crossbar and clipped the roof of the net.

United, despite being under a bit of pressure from the visitors, got themselves into a good attacking position with Marcus Rashford which was created by Paul Pogba issuing a perfectly weighted pass through the defence to the 19-year-old. Rashford’s initial cross was blocked, but he then regained possession of the ball to set up Henrikh Mkhitaryan who scored his second goal against the Belgian side in a week, and his fifth of the UEFA Europa League this season, in the tenth minute of the match. In the 18th minute of the match, Marcos Rojo seemed like he collided whilst defending an Anderlecht attack, hurting his knee. After some treatment, he was able to continue.

United nearly conceded a goal in the  22nd minute of the match with Frank Acheampong through on goal and Sergio Romero getting a touch to send it out for a corner. Rojo was down again in the aftermath of that chance, with him being stretchered off and Daley Blind replacing him. Big blow for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho who are now back to barebones with their defence. United had a few good opportunities going forward, but Anderlecht were getting something together. Just after the half-hour mark, Anderlecht equalised through Sofiane Hanni, scoring the away goal which sets the game level, not only tonight but on aggregate too. United need to ensure they don’t allow the Belgian side to score again.

United made the move to get themselves back within a chance to make it into the draw tomorrow. Some good interplay in the midfield and the attack with Paul Pogba again trying to set something up, giving the ball to Mkhitaryan, who had a good first touch, but his second, a shot on goal, was wide of the mark. United were adding pressure to the Anderlecht defence, keeping their patience and moving the ball regularly. Two additional minutes were played at the end of the first half with Anderlecht on the attack and everything nearly falling into place for Hanni to score again. It was not to be for the visitors, though. 1-1 at the end of the half, 2-2 on aggregate. All to play for.

United continued in the second half where they left the first, trying to turn this around and get a second goal. On the 50th minute of the match, Luke Shaw burst up the left flank, some good interplay with Rashford with the ball rolling past the face of the goal and an onrushing Lingard could not get United’s second goal of the evening. Unlucky. Anderlecht then had their turn to add pressure to United’s defence, not getting what they wanted. Anderlecht were getting more and more chances to make United suffer, but they just were not going to plan, for them at least. United then had their chance to add pressure, not getting anything on that attack.

On the hour, United made their second change with Marouane Fellaini replacing Jesse Lingard to a chorus of boos from the away section of Old Trafford. United were in a good position through Rashford in the 65th minute of the match with the 19-year-old having a free shot on goal, but it just not challenging the Anderlecht goalkeeper. Rashford could have scored a blinding goal just before the 70th minute with him through on goal, rounding the keeper and his chance dying as quickly as it came for him. In the 75th minute of the match, after some good play from United, they won a corner, which came to nothing. United needed to be doing so much more to stay in this competition.

It was looking like a match United just did not want with Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing another clear chance on goal. Not sure what is happening there. United had plenty of opportunities to score, just not getting a precise kick to threaten, which is costing them more and more as the minutes wind down to 90. United had an onslaught of chances in the dying minutes of the match, which just did not want to go in for United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was injured in the last-minute of the match, being replaced by Anthony Martial at the start of extra time. United had a chance from the off with Rashford hitting a rabona and Pogba attempting to score with an overhead kick. Mkhitaryan had a chance minutes later, after Anderlecht had one, both sides still chasing the game.

United scored in the 100th minute of the match through Pogba, but it was ruled out as Fellaini impeded his defender in the build-up to the goal. United back to square one. United had twenty attempts on goal throughout the match, 31 between the two teams. Youri Tielemans had a chance at the end of the first half of extra time which bounced off Sergio Romero, who then got the ball just before the onrushing player looking to find the back of the net. Fifteen minutes left for United to win this, or it would be a penalty shootout. United took the lead in the 107th minute through Rashford. Unlucky it was not at least his third goal this evening.

United and Anderlecht were both having chances after United’s second goal of the evening. The Belgian side had put the work in to get forward, with United playing deep and another away goal would see them through if there were no more goals from United. United were defending well though, which was a good thing. Anthony Martial scored for United, but the flag was up. Just over a minute plus stoppage time to go. This is a very close match. Too close for comfort. United were into the semi-final of the Europa League.

Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 10′, Marcus Rashford 107′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 10′, Marouane Fellaini 107′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo (Blind 23′), Shaw; Carrick, Pogba; Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Lingard (Fellaini 60′); Ibrahimovic (Martial 90)

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Young, Herrera; Rooney

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