Manchester United beat AS Roma 6-2 in the UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg at Old Trafford. Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring in the ninth minute but a penalty by Lorenzo Pellegrini saw United’s lead cut short. Edin Džeko then put Roma ahead 34th minute of the match. The second half was where United showed up with Edinson Cavani scoring a brace, Fernandes scoring a penalty, Paul Pogba getting a good goal and Mason Greenwood finishing the scoring to give United a four-goal lead going into the second leg at the Stadio Olimpico next Thursday. United have a foot in the door to the final.
United started well against the Italian side and were seeking to take control of the fixture. Roma lost Jordan Veretout in the fifth minute of the match after what seemed like a hamstring injury – he was replaced by Gonzalo Villar. Four minutes later, United opened the scoring with Bruno Fernandes scoring his 25th goal of the season, assisted by Edinson Cavani. It all started to go wrong for United there though. A penalty was given in the 14th minute after Paul Pogba, who was doing his defensive duties, sliding the make the clearance with an arm in the air and the ball striking it. Lorenzo Pellegrini scored from the spot in the 15th minute.
In the 28th minute ion the match, Roma lost their goalkeeper Pau López after seemingly injuring his shoulder with veteran Antonio Mirante replacing him. Just six minutes later, Roma had taken the lead for the first time in the match with Edin Džeko scoring from close-range after a defensive mistake saw Pellegrini play the ball into the forward and him finding the back of the net. It was a poor period for United, who needed to be a but more defensively astute, especially against Džeko, who has form scoring against United. Roma lost a third player through unjust in the 37th minute after Leonardo Spinazzola was replaced by Bruno Peres.
United had a few opportunities to get level again, but it was not happening for them. The advantage would be theirs in the second half though as if Roma did not make a double substitution, they would not be able to bring on any other players as the five substitutions need to be made one three occasions inn the match, and they have brought three substitutes one already in three different points of the match. If they did not make any changes during the break, that would be it for them for the remainder of the match. United still have five substitutions to make, which gives them an advantage, as long as they can do something to win the match.
Neither side made a change during the break, which means that Roma will not be able to make any for the remainder of the match, despite having two remaining. United should have made a substitution to change the flow of attack, but they will probably be left for later in the match, which time is against them. United got level in the game with Cavani scoring his 11th goal of the season, equalising in the 48th minute of the match with Fernandes getting the assist. United looked a bit more assured starting the second half, which is what was needed to take charge of this match. Clearly something was said at half time by Solskjaer.
United got a third goal of the evening with Cavani finding the back of the net for the second time this evening, adding his tally to 12 goals so far this season and it puts United in command of this fixture. The United side that turned up in the second half had started to become ruthless. After some chances on goal, United won a penalty after Chris Smalling seemed to foul Cavani in the box and Fernandes scored his second of the match and 26th of the season putting United 4-2 up. Just four minutes later, Paul Pogba, who gave away a penalty in the first half, found the back of the net to score United’s fifth goal of the match.
United pulled this victory out of the bag and punished Roma in the second half. Mason Greenwood replaced Marcus Rashford in the 73rd minute of the match, two minutes before Pogba’s goal, which put United 5-2 up. Solskjaer made another change in the 83rd minute with Nemanja Matic replacing Fred. Three minutes later, Greenwood scored United’s sixth goal of the match, surely putting the club into the final and ending their semi-final hoodoo. Solskjaer then made a third change in the last minute of the match with Juan Mata replacing Fernandes. United would travel to Rome to face Roma in the second leg with a big cushion.
United would surely need two away goals in Rome to ensure their place in the final, which could be against Villarreal or Arsenal, with that match ending 2-1 to the Spanish side in Spain. United’s goals in the second half caught Roma out, seemingly the fall or Roma and they will be thinking about that visit to the Theatre of Dreams back in April 2007 with a resurgent United winning 7-1 after a 2-1 defeat in Rome six days prior. Whatever Solskjaer said in the dressing room at half time, it worked and this United side smashed their oppositions spirit, punishing them time and time again in the second half to grab the victory.
United face Liverpool at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon, which is another big encounter with United seeking to cement their second-placed finish in the league this season. Leicester City and Chelsea are both also seeking to better their league positions this season, with Leicester the closest to United – but the pair still have to play next month, which could be the decider in who takes second this season. United have turned a corner and it will be interesting to see who is still moaning after that match, which was good from start to finish. Never write United off. They can do anything at any time.
Goals: Bruno Fernandes 9′, 71′, Edinson Cavani 48′, 64′, Paul Pogba 75′, Mason Greenwood 86′; Lorenzo Pellegrini 15′ penalty, Edin Džeko 34′
Assists: Edinson Cavani 9′, 86′, Bruno Fernandes 48′, 75′; Lorenzo Pellegrini 34′
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred (Matic 83′); Rashford (Greenwood 76′), Fernandes (Mata 90′), Pogba; Cavani
Substitutes Not Used: Grant, Henderson; Bailly, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; Diallo, James, Van de Beek
Bookings: Paul Pogba 51′; Gonzalo Villar 50′, Chris Smalling 61′
Written by John Walker