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2019/20 – UEFA Europa League – FC Astana – Home

Manchester United beat Astana 1-0 at Old Trafford in their first UEFA Europa League group stage match of the season. It was a frustrating game for United, who had made nine changes from the victory over Leicester City with Marcus Rashford the only player to retain his place in the team. 17-year-old Mason Greenwood scored the only goal of the game.

United got the breakthrough in the 68th minute of the match, five minutes after Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong were replaced by Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard. Fred started the chance by spreading the ball into Greenwood, who went to shoot with his left foot, opting for his right instead, drilling the ball low and hard into the far corner of the goal.

It could be seen as a learning curve for some of United’s fringe players who need time in order to find themselves playing in the first team. There was a distinct lack of creativity in the team against Astana but that does not mean that these players are not good enough. The headlines will be dominated by the fact that Greenwood opened up his account for United.

 

Goals: Mason Greenwood 73′

Assists: Fred 73′

Manchester United: Romero; Dalot, Tuanzebe, Jones, Rojo (Young 79′); Fred, Matic; Greenwood, Gomes (Mata 68′), Chong (Lingard 68′); Rashford

Substitutes Not Used: Grant; Maguire; Garner, McTominay

Bookings: Fred 85′

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Ajax – Final

Manchester United won the UEFA Europa League beating Ajax 2-0 at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on Wednesday evening. The only major European trophy the club have never won in the history. Paul Pogba scored the opening goal, putting United 1-0 up in the 18th minute of the match. United doubled down in the 48th minute through Henrikh Mkhitaryan, earning their name on the trophy. Ajax were touted as the better team, but despite having the majority of the ball in Stockholm, they did little with it. United won a Mickey Mouse treble this season; the FA Community Shield, the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League. Take me Holm!

Jose Mourinho restored his first team after Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace, keeping the faith in Sergio Romero. Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford also returned to the starting XI with Paul Pogba the only player to start both this UEFA Europa League final and the last match. United have made it 79 consecutive seasons of having at least one youth player in their matchday squad with Pogba and Rashford starting and Fosu-Mensah and Lingard on the bench. After the minute’s silence after Monday’s terror attack in Manchester, the fans were in full voice, spurring the team in their bid for glory.

Paul Pogba could have played a big part in the opening minute with his volley going wide of the mark which also saw Andre Onana and Joel Veltman collided in the box as Pogba tried to put his team ahead. United had a lot of the ball in the opening eight minutes of the match, getting forward a lot and pressuring Ajax to play deep, which recently has been the other way around. Ajax had their first bit of real pressure in the thirteenth minute with Davy Klaassen waiting in the United box, but United dispossessed the Dutch side, making the clearance. Amin Younes played the ball for Bertrand Traore, who had a shot on goal for the Dutch side with Sergio Romero thwarting the effort and catching the ball, regaining possession for United.

Paul Pogba opened up the scoring in the 18th minute of the match after a poor Ajax throw-in was intercepted by Juan Mata who passed to Marouane Fellaini who set up the Frenchman, who apparently was having a poor season, despite being the main man on the pitch for United, not to mention the fact that when he wasn’t playing, United missed him. 1-0 to United on their quest to a European title. United seemed to be boosted by that opening goal. In the 24th minute, Antonio Valencia had the ball on the right flank, beating his man, getting into the box and firing a powerful effort towards the goal with Onana putting a top to it, luckily for him. In the 31st minute of the match, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was booked for a challenge on Veltman.

Ajax had a spell of pressure on United around the 33rd minute of the match, having their most credible created chance of the game, which was thwarted by United. Ajax were starting to awaken towards the end of the first half, but United were never out of control. Pogba, Ander Herrera and Fellaini were doing enough in the midfield to stop Ajax from advancing and turn the tide on them. Traore got through on goal for United with Matteo Darmian defending well, then fouled in the box by the on-loan Chelsea player, with United being awarded the free-kick. There was one minute of additional time played at the end of the first half. Ajax may have had more of the ball in the first half, but it was United who were on top at the break.

No changes at the start of the second half for either team. United picked up where they left off, getting forward and threatening the Dutch side. United had the perfect start to the second half, doubling the lead from a corner with Smalling nodding the ball into the six-yard box and Mkhitaryan hooking the ball into the roof of the net. United fans were saying we should not underestimate this Ajax side, it would seem they were overestimating them. Another goal for United should be game over, providing they keep playing like they have been for the remainder of the match. United were playing well this evening, which is a surprise after the season they have had, but when you account for the fact the season is over after tonight, it might suggest where this has come from.

In the 65th minute of the match, United pressured the Dutch side again. The cross came in for Fellaini, who was in the box, god the header on goal which went straight into Onana’s hands. Unlucky for the Belgian. United seemed determined to keep both hands on the trophy which could be their fifth European trophy in the history of the club, and more importantly, a place in the Champions League. Ajax won a free-kick on the edge of United’s box for a handball by Mkhitaryan, which was ball to hand and harsh for United. Hakim Ziyech took the free-kick, hitting his own player in the box and United clearing the danger. Jesse Lingard replaced Mkhitaryan in the 74th minute of the match, United’s first change of the night so far.

United were still on top inside the last ten minutes of the game with Ajax not really getting a look into the game. They still had a lot of the ball, but just were not doing anything with it. United’s height seemed to thwart the majority of attacks. United made their second change of the evening in the 84th minute with Anthony Martial replacing Rashford. Just after the change, Lingard was on the run, but ran out of pace, getting dispossessed just inside the box getting nothing from his attack. United were still two goals to the good. In the last minute of the match, Wayne Rooney made his 559th appearance for United, replacing Mata. Four minutes of added time at the end of the half, with United just having to see it through to get their hands on the only major trophy they have never won before. Manchester United have won the UEFA Europa League and a place in the Champions League next season, eat that, Arsenal.

Goals: Paul Pogba 18′, Henrikh Mkhitaryan 48′

Assists: Marouane Fellaini 18′, Chris Smalling 48′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Fellaini; Mata (Rooney 90′), Pogba, Mkhitaryan (Lingard 74′); Rashford (Martial 84′)

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Jones, Fosu-Mensah; Carrick

Bookings: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 31′, Marouane Fellaini 52′, Juan Mata 78′

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Celta de Vigo – Home

Manchester United drew 1-1 with Celta Vigo in the semi-final second leg of the UEFA Europa League earning a final place against Ajax who beat Lyon 5-4 on aggregate in the other semi-final. Marouane Fellaini was the provider of United’s goal in the 17th minute of the match by Facundo Roncaglia who was sent off along with Eric Bailly in the 87th minute of the match after a fracas over something around the centre circle. United will be weakened in the final, but will aim to win it.

Jose Mourinho started the same team he did a week ago in Spain, making seven changes from the team beaten 2-0 by Arsenal on Sunday. The Spanish side were looking for a goal from the off, pressuring United in their own area, aiming to get something on the break. Sergio Romero has to make two stops on the first two minutes, calm in his area with United seemingly inviting pressure on them. United soon got themselves back in the game through their possession, Paul Pogba did some keepy-uppy tricks turning to attack sending a good ball into the area which was thwarted by the Spanish side. United took the lead in the 17th minute of the match through Marouane Fellaini with a header after Rashford put a sensational pass into him. United were 1-0 up and two goals to the good.

Fellaini’s header was United’s 100th goal of the season. Two minutes after United’s opener Henrikh Mkhitaryan had a shot after he broke clear on the left flank but his effort flew over the crossbar. United has changed their play from sitting in their own half in the opening few minutes of the match to playing some quick attacking football. Mkhitaryan released Lingard, but his effort from the edge of the box was deflected for a United corner, which amounted to nothing. Celta Vigo won a free-kick in the 25th minute of the match which was swung in by Daniel Wass and Romero had to punch the ball to safety. Two minutes later, Pablo Hernandez was given the space and the time to shoot from 25-yards, forcing Romero to put it out for a corner.

In the 35th minute of the match, United seemed to be in cruise control and well on their want to facing Ajax in the final in Sweden in just under a fortnight’s time. United found themselves under a bit of pressure with five minutes left with Pione Sisto’s quick feet towards the left-hand side of the edge of the box before he curled his effort almost catching Romero off his line. United ended the half 1-0 up, 2-0 on aggregate seemingly in the driving seat to the final. Marcus Rashford, the provider to Fellaini’s header has been involved in United’s last four goals in the Europa League, scoring twice and assisting twice. No changes at the start of the second half for, but the visitors brought on Sanchez Ruiz Jozabed for Daniel Wass.

From the start of the second half, Celta Vigo were looking to get themselves back into the match with fast paced attacking football. In all of their six away matches in the Europa League this season, the Spanish side have scored, winning three of the last four, which could suggest they will not be happy leaving Old Trafford without finding the back of the net, which would help them change the game. United, though, have been doing their best to thwart the Spanish side from taking away their advantage of the away goal a week ago. United seemed to have gone back to playing in their own half with Celta Vigo pressuring them with their pace and ability, which so far is not causing many problems for United. Romero has been a top player in this game, getting the better of almost every attempt made.

United won a free-kick in their own area after Pogba did a Cruyff turn, being taken out by Hugo Mallo. The £89 million man will probably be criticised for using his skill by those who just do not know how to appreciate him. Just after the hour mark, United started getting themselves forward, creating some pressure for the visitors, so far it not getting them anything. Marcus Rashford got himself into the box, creating a threat on the Spanish side, keeping the ball and launching a shot with was dealt with by Celta Vigo. United had another spot of pressure to deal with but Eric Bailly chased down and won the ball, under pressure to clear it, so he rounds the player who was trying to dispossess him, clearing the ball easily.

Iago Aspas earned himself a yellow card for dissent after going down on the left side of the box with Mkhitaryan trying to get the ball back. He seemed to think he was due a free-kick but the referee did not make much of it, booking him after he threw his toys out of the pram. Theo Bongonda replaced Nemanja Radoja in the 68th minute of the match, the second substitution of the evening for the visitors. In the 69th minute, Fellaini was through in the box, sending his shot goalwards with a corner being won which Rashford took, not getting anything for United from that set-piece. In the 71st minute Jozabed had a shot on goal, which was wide of the mark. United looked comfortable at this late stage of the match with Celta Vigo looking desperate for a goal.

In the 75th minute after pressuring United, Celta Vigo had a good chance to capitalise through John Guidetti, being off target by some distance. Chances seem to be running out for the Spanish side. In the 77th minute of the match, Michael Carrick replaced Henrikh Mkhitaryan with United looking to win the match with the veteran midfielder on the pitch to help United in possession and set the tempo for the game. The Spanish side made their second change on the  80th minute with Claudio Beauvue replacing Sisto. United still have two substitutes to make, with the visitors having none left this evening. United had a moment of pressure on the Spanish side with Lingard and Rashford having some good play, but failing to get something from the attack.

In the 85th minute of the match, United conceded the away goal with Facundo Roncaglia scoring the equaliser on the night. United still lead 2-1 on aggregate with a nervy final few minutes. There was a fracas on the pitch with Eric Bailly seemingly punching John Guidetti and Antonio Valencia involved also. It resulted in Bailly being sent off as well as Roncaglia with both teams down to ten men and the winner missing either man from the final. After the commotion Wayne Rooney replaced Lingard and Chris Smalling replaced Rashford with United still in the match just, but conceding another goal would see them out of the competition. Six minutes were added at the end of the match. United won a free-kick on the edge of the Celta Vigo’s box after a challenge, which came to nothing.

Four minutes into added time Pogba played a sublime pass to Ander Herrera who found the back of the net with it being ruled out as Pogba fouled his man in the box. United seemed to be wasting time where they could, in all fairness, they had been the victim of teams wasting time in this competition this season, so why not waste some of their own. In the final few seconds of the match, the Spanish side were through on goal with United doing just enough to stop a second goal being scored. United were through to the final, but it was going to be at some cost – maybe not an injury, but with Eric Bailly losing his cool and earning himself a straight red card meaning he will miss out in Sweden in less than a fortnight.

Goals: Marouane Fellaini 17′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 17′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Fellaini; Lingard (Rooney 86′), Pogba, Mkhitaryan (Carrick 77′); Rashford (Smalling 89′)

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Jones; Mata, Martial

Bookings: Daley Blind 32′, Ander Herrera 81′, Eric Bailly s/o 87′

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Celta de Vigo – Away

Manchester United beat Celta Vigo in the semi-final first leg in the UEFA Europa league through a Marcus Rashford free kick in the 67th minute of the match. Jose Mourinho’s men will be in good stead of the final with a similar performance at Old Trafford in a weeks time. United will be sweating on the fitness of Rashford, who limped off with a knock and Ashley Young, who came on twelve minutes from time but seemed to suffer a hamstring injury, coming off in the 89th minute with Chris Smalling making his return from injury.

Jose Mourinho made six changes from the 1-1 draw against Swansea City at Old Trafford at the weekend with Sergio Romero, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all returning to the starting XI. United started the match in good form, maintaining possession and getting forward at times. In the first five minutes, Marcus Rashford got away down the left, teeing up Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who send his shot wide of the target. Almost five minutes later, Celta had their first chance with Daniel Wass being picked out unmarked, heading wide from six-yards, just beating Sergio Romero to the ball. Let off for United there. Matteo Darmian was pulled aside by the referee in the 12th minute for a challenge on Iago Aspas, avoiding a booking.

Celta Vigo looked like they did not care about United’s history and how big a club they were, taking the challenge to them, using their pace and positioning to try and create a breakthrough, which so far, had been thwarted by United. Paul Pogba was on the attack for United in the 17th minute, taken out at the edge of the box by Facundo Roncaglia, but nothing was given in United’s favour from the Russian official, which was harsh on the Frenchman. United had a great chance through Rashford in the 21st minute, putting in a great curling shot from the edge of the box, which was heading for the top corner, if Sergio Alvarez had not saved it. United won the corner, which came to nothing for the visitors who are still looking for the opening goal of the match.

United had many chances on goal but were being thwarted attempt after attempt. Mkhitaryan had a few himself. Marouane Fellaini was booked on the 34th minute of the match, which was a surprise seemingly learning nothing from the fact he was sent off only two matches ago for a headbutt on Sergio Aguero in the Manchester derby. Celta were bringing all they had against United, getting through on occasion, but not costing United, yet at least. The first half ended 0-0 with United having more threatening chances, but not capitalising so far. It will be a big half for United, who need to get at least an away goal here, or could see themselves in a position whereby they could suffer by conceding in a weeks time at Old Trafford.

United had a good chance to capitalise early in the second half through Fellaini but Gustavo Cabral got to it, clearing the danger. Paul Pogba then picked up the ball, sending his shot over the crossbar. Aspas broke through in the 52nd minute of the match, sending his shot on goal off target, luckily for United. Celta were the team starting to play better in this second half, Pione Sisto fired his shot towards United’s goal with Romero getting a hand to the ball to send it over for a corner. Celta won a corner, which was dealt with by United. United won a free kick at the edge of the box after Hugo Mallo fouled Rashford. Rashford and Daley Blind both set up to take the corner with Blind running over the ball and Rashford taking the kick, putting United 1-0 up.

Celta, after conceding the away goal, were trying to get something from the game. Aspas has a shot, but it was not good enough to cause any damage for United. In the 78th minute of the match, Mourinho made his first change with Ashley Young replacing Mkhitaryan. Two minutes later, Anthony Martial replaced Rashford, who seemed to have a little knock to the inside of his left knee. Celta, at the late stage of the match, were trying to get themselves back into the game knowing that in the last two first leg matches, United have succumbed to a draw from a winning position. United’s away goal will put them in the driving seat heading into the second leg at Old Trafford. Pogba saw himself booked for time wasting before taking a free kick with five minutes of normal time remaining.

Ashley Young, a substitute twelve minutes from time seems to have suffered a hamstring injury and was replaced in the last-minute of the match by Chris Smalling, who made his return from injury with only a day’s training ahead of the match. United seemingly had this tie in the bag, though with Rashford’s free kick breaking the deadlock before coming off with a knock. United did what they needed to do, despite not scoring more, but an away goal in the bag and a clean sheet will set them up well at Old Trafford in a week’s time. Scoring in that game will need to happen in order to guarantee a final berth in Sweden.

Goals: Marcus Rashford 67′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Fellaini, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford (Martial 80′), Mkhitaryan (Young 78′, Smalling 89′)

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Mata, Carrick; Rooney

Bookings: Marouane Fellaini 33′, Paul Pogba 85′

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Anderlecht – Home

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

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Anderlecht – Away

Manchester United drew 1-1 in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg away to Anderlecht. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the opening goal in the match on the 36th minute, with many chances before and after coming for United. Paul Pogba was unlucky not to double United’s lead in the second half when he was through almost one-on-one with the goalkeeper, seeing his effort thwarted. Anderlecht scored late in the second half, which will make this tie an eventful one at Old Trafford in a weeks time.

Three changes were made by manager Jose Mourinho ahead of the match with Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, and Marcus Rashford returning to the team ahead of Luke Shaw, Marouane Fellaini, and Luke Shaw. Anderlecht started well, pressuring United from the off, which could have resulted in them finding an early goal, but the chance was miss-kicked. United then had possession for a period of time, advancing into the home sides area with Paul Pogba having an opportunity which was not the best for the visitors. United, after a purple patch, Anderlecht were the team with the chances with Marcus Rashford using his pace and ability to United’s strength, which may just work this evening.

United has a great chance inside the 17th minute of the match with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the box and Jesse Lingard hitting the post, which could have seen the Red Devils in the driving seat of the match. A minute later, Rashford had a shot on goal from distance, which was off target, unfortunately. United had a few more chances following, but just could not get the touches, or get through the defence to break the deadlock. It has been an all United affair since the early chances for the home side. United were firmly in control of the match around the half hour mark, with Anderlecht not really advancing. Henrikh Mkhitaryan put United ahead in the 36th minute of the match after Antonio Valencia crossed into the box, Rashford’s shot was parried off the keeper and the Armenian fired into the back of the net from the angle.

The first half was a strong half for United, who weathered the storm from the Belgian side in the opening minutes of the match, got to grips with the game and started firing their chances, which with Mkhitaryan’s strike, put them ahead and gave them the all-important away goal, which may not be enough with them taking the tie back to Old Trafford in a week’s time. United did well, dealt with any threats and got on with looking for the opportunities to take the game. So far so good for United, 1-0 up at the end of the first half. Mkhitaryan scored his fourth goal in the Europa League this season, scoring against Zorya Luhansk in the group stages, then one against each of Saint-Etienne, FC Rostov and now Anderlecht.

No changes at the start of the second half for either team, but in the opening stages, Michael Carrick was booked for a challenge on Frank Acheampong with the home side given a free-kick in a dangerous area, which did not threaten Sergio Romero or United’s goal. Moments later, Anderlecht were on the attack with Valencia clearing the threat twice, keeping United ahead. Youri Tielemans had a chance to get something from the game, but Valencia again did enough to thwart the effort. Anderlecht seemed more positive and resurgent in the second half, getting the better of United, until at least they get the ball back off them, clearing the threat and trying to start something of their own. In the 55th minute of the match, Mkhitaryan nearly doubled United’s lead after a good touch from Matteo Darmian.

Just before the hour, after weathering the storm again from the home side, United broke through with Mkhitaryan setting Rashford through, for the attack to be thwarted. United, despite the pressure being put on them by Anderlecht, seem to be the better side. Doubling the lead will be a big bit of insurance for Mourinho’s side with all to play for at Old Trafford in a week. In the 63rd minute of the match, Mourinho made his first change with Anthony Martial replacing Jesse Lingard. United, still 1-0 up, remained in a good position in the match with Anderlecht going through a period where fouls were their thing. Nine players on the pitch were a booking away from a suspension, which was dangerous territory for the home side.

In the 75th minute of the match, Mourinho made his second change with Marouane Fellaini replacing Marcus Rashford. Despite the Belgian’s threat at different stages in the match, United were the team in the driving seat, dealing with everything and getting forward on the counter. Anthony Martial was through on the right, passing back to the edge of the box with Fellaini driving a goalward shot, which was thwarted by the Anderlecht goalkeeper. Eight minutes from time, Pogba was through on goal, driving his shot from the angle with Ruben making the save and giving United the corner, which Fellaini tried to score from, with the goalkeeper again stopping his effort. United had this game won or seemed to at this stage of the match. Anderlecht were looking to stop that from happening, though.

Anderlecht got the goal they were looking for through Leander Dendoncker five minutes from time. It might be something of a negative for United in conceding that goal, but it was the only shot on target Anderlecht had through the entire match. United had the away goal, which will be the positive aspect of the match, and they will have to ensure they do not concede at Old Trafford next week. Mourinho made his final change in the 90th minute with Timothy Fosu-Mensah replacing Henrikh Mkhitaryan with three minutes of injury time remaining. It was unfortunate that United conceded a goal, but having that all-important away goal will be the big thing coming from this match, especially as the home side only had one shot on target throughout the match.

Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 36′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Darmian; Carrick, Pogba, Lingard (Martial 63′), Rashford (Fellaini 75′), Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan (Fosu-Mensah 90′)

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Blind, Shaw; Herrera

Bookings: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 24′, Michael Carrick 47′, Timothy Fosu-Mensah 90+2′

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – FC Rostov – Home

Manchester United beat FC Rostov 1-0 at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League with a Juan Mata goal, assisted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic to earn a quarter-final place in the competition for the first time. A year ago United exited at this stage at the hands of Liverpool, getting at least one stage further this season. Sergio Romero cannot go unmentioned for his heroics, pulling off more than one world-class save to keep United in tomorrow’s draw.

Jose Mourinho made five changes from the side who were defeated 1-0 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening. Sergio Romero, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all returned to the starting XI for the second leg clash with FC Rostov in the Europa League. Mourinho kept his five at the back formation, which had worked in the previous two matches with Rostov and Chelsea, but on Monday night the sending off of Ander Herrera unsettled run of play, ruining it for the away side. United started well on the attack, pressuring the Russian side, nearly opening the scoring in the fifth minute.

United had the lion’s share of possession during the first 25 minutes, but Rostov were parking the bus the majority of the time. United were getting chances forward, but other than the chance inside the first five minutes and the chance in the 16th minute, there was little threatening the Russian side. United were playing a 3-4-2-1 formation with Smalling, Bailly, and Rojo at the back, Valencia, Herrera, Pogba and Blind in midfield, Mkhitaryan and Mata playing behind Ibrahimovic. In the 27th minute, United were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty as it looked like the Russian keeper shoved Mkhitaryan aside, but nothing was awarded.

Mkhitaryan was unlucky not to score moments later which a shot, which just missed the target with United looking resurgent on the attack. In the 35th minute, Zlatan Ibrahimovic his an effort which struck the post with United seemingly not able to buy a goal so far in the match. The best team on the pitch were bringing the game into Rostov’s area, with the Russian’s doing all they could to keep near enough ever player in their area. United will need to break the deadlock, which may quell the game a little, but could bring the Russian’s out of their half looking to get back into the match.

The first half ended 0-0 with United resurgent in the final minutes of the half. In the entire first half, Herrera and Pogba shared more passes than the entire Rostov team, so you can imagine how dire the match had been with the Russian side going against the play of the game to park the bus and generally try and keep themselves in the match. United were still leading with the away goal, which sounds good, but it is a precarious position to be in at this stage. United need a goal or goals, conceding one may not be that much of an issue yet with the Red Devils dominating the play.

The second half started with more of the same for United but in the 47th minute of the match, Paul Pogba stopped feeling his hamstring, then being replaced by Marouane Fellaini, which will be a midfield crisis for United against Middlesbrough on Sunday with Herrera suspended and now Pogba seemingly injured. United were dealt a moment with could have been costly in the 54th minute with Sardar Azmoun getting a shot on goal which was denied by Sergio Romero. Moments later, Rostov had another attempt, that being thwarted also. United on dangerous ground by not grabbing a goal early enough.

United countered the Rostov chances with another of their own with Ibrahimovic having a shot on goal, which has a little too much on the ball. United were banging on the door, slightly, but needed a bit more to get something out of the bag. United made their second change of the game in the 64th minute of the match with Phil Jones replacing Daley Blind, who seemed to suffer an elbow to the head moments before. United took the lead through Juan Mata in the 70th minute with the Spaniard setting the goal up on the attack, the ball then going to Mkhitaryan, who crossed to Zlatan, who then flicked the ball towards goal, with Mata burying it.

United had what they needed, but they were still trying to double their lead. Rostov were playing like they were defending a lead they didn’t have. Zlatan was unlucky not to have a goal this evening, having another shot in the dying minutes of the match. United still found themselves on the attack and pressuring the Russian side. United gave away a free kick in the dying seconds of injury time with Rostov being awarded a free-kick. The free-kick was a shot on goal with Romero pulling off a great save once again. Marcus Rashford was waiting to get on the pitch, but he wasn’t needed, meaning he’s rested for the weekend.

The quarter-final draw for the UEFA Europa League will be drawn at noon tomorrow. Can United keep this momentum up and find themselves in the Champions League through this competition.

Goals: Juan Mata 70′

Assists: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 70′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Rojo, Blind (Jones 64′); Herrera, Pogba (Fellaini 47′); Mata, Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Lingard, Carrick, Young; Rashford

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – FC Rostov – Away

Manchester United drew 1-1 in Russia with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring the opening goal of the match. The pitch was not the best, but it did not cause any injuries for United, which is a good thing. Rostov equalised in the second half, came close to getting another, but United did all they could to stop that from happening. The second leg at Old Trafford will need to see United do the business after a tough week with Chelsea in their sights on Monday night.

Jose Mourinho made seven changes to his lineup and a change of formation with five at the back, possible a test of formation for Monday night to combat Chelsea in the FA Cup? Matteo Darmian was left out of the 18-man matchday squad along with Kieran O’Hara, both of whom travelled to Russia with the squad on Tuesday afternoon. The Russian side only named six substitutes due to their squad being light on numbers. United started on the front foot, attacking well, but much like United, Rostov were well covered defensively. It could be a tough game to break down – for both teams.

United looked like they needed to perfect the formation they were playing in, but things were going well in the early stages of the match. Marouane Fellaini was on a 17 match streak since earning his last yellow card, which was a good stat for the burly Belgian. In the 21st minute of the match Henrikh Mkhitaryan was booked for a supposed elbow on an opposition player, who seemed to go down easily and make a meal out of the challenge, something they have been doing on a few occasions on the Armenian, possibly to try to get him sent off.

In the 25th Alexandr Gatskan was booked for a challenge on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and being one yellow card away from a suspension, will, therefore miss the second leg at Old Trafford in a weeks time. The Russian side will have to take their fate from this match, and the second leg without their captain. The match seemed to be a balanced on for much of the first half-hour with the two sides equally matched in terms of vying for chances. United had the most possession in the open half hour, having three shots on goal, none of them on target. Rostov has two shots on goal, one of those on target.

United took the lead in the 35th minute through Mkhitaryan with the assist coming from Ibrahimovic. United had done all they could to get the goal, prevailing at the right time with ten minutes to go before the end of the half. Rostov will have been unhappy to concede, but the match was not over yet. United do need to take lead from this match, ensure they have little to do at Old Trafford in a weeks time. At the end of the first half, there was two additional minutes to be played. United were on the attack for much of those additional minutes, pressuring their opposition. United went into the break 1-0 up, surely with more to do in the second half.

United started well in the second half, attempting to get something going in order to double their lead. Rostov seemed to be out of the match at 1-0 down, but that could well change later into the game. In the 52nd minute, United were on the counter and it was Ashley Young who fired towards goal, but his effort was off target. Rostov then went on the break moments later, scoring the equaliser through Alexander Bukharov inside the 53rd minute. That was not to plan, so United now needed something to go their way in order to head away from Russia with the victory.

A 1-1 draw may not be all that bad, which will mean United will have two more big matches ahead of them over the next week. Mourinho made his first change of the match inside the 68th minute with Anthony Martial replacing the goalscorer Henrikh Mkhitaryan, presumably allowing the Armenian to rest ahead of Monday night’s trip to Stamford Bridge. In the 73rd minute of the match Dzmitry Molosh was booked, meaning he too misses the second leg at Old Trafford. A minute or so later the home side made their second change with the apparent ‘Iranian Lionel Messi’ Sardar Azmoun replacing Bukharov.

Ander Herrera was booked in the 78th minute for a challenge, which seemed to hurt the Rostov player, the second booking for United this evening. Nothing too costly, though. United were doing all they could to thwart Rostov from taking the lead during the match, which was possible with the chances they were creating, but United were getting the better of them. Mourinho made two changes at the death with Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick replacing Daley Blind and Ander Herrera. The match ended 1-1, with all to play for at Old Trafford. United still unbeaten inside 90 minutes in Russia. Chelsea on Monday evening in the Emirates FA Cup will be another big challenge lying in wait for United, with the second leg of this match coming three days later.

Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 35′

Assists: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 35′

Manchester United: Romero; Young, Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Blind (Valencia 90+2′); Fellaini, Herrera (Carrick 90+2′), Pogba; Mkhitaryan (Martial 68′); Ibrahimovic

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Mata, Lingard; Rashford

Bookings: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 21′, Ander Herrera 78′

Written by Mike Wilson

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Saint-Etienne – Away

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′

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Saint-Etienne – Home

copyright: JW