Report: Rashford’s free kick the difference between United and Celta Vigo


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′

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