Friday, 26 February 2016

Manchester United vs Midtjylland

So, Manchester United are through to the next round of the Europa League after a 5-1 win (6-3 agg) against Danish side, FC Midtjylland. The 5-1 scoreline makes it seem as if United have strolled into the next stage of the competition, but is that truly the case?

In all truth, Midtjylland were a side who United should have been beaten comfortably, but over the two ties this was far from the case. In the first leg we saw United look truly terrible as they were visibly struggling against the Danes, where they slumped to a 2-1 loss, making the return tie one of the most important games of the season as United's Champions League hopes for next season are seemingly hinged on Europa League success.

United went into the game looking like a broken side; many big name injuries, a string of poor results, and a fan base getting increasingly frustrated with each passing match. Amongst these injuries was the late withdrawal of one of the standout players of the season, Anthony Martial, just 20 minutes before kick off. Martial was replaced by youngster Marcus Rashford, but more about him later.

This lack of confidence was evident from the get go in this fixture, and United soon found themselves a goal behind and with a mountain to climb, courtesy of a goal from danger man Sisto. It would have been easy for this goal to crush the little remaining hope that this team had, but happily this wasn't the case. United managed to sneak a goal before half time thanks to a deflected cross from the man of the match, Memphis Depay. Depay’s cross took a favourable deflection off of the leg of Bodurov, and the Reds went into the second half level at 1-1 and still needing a goal just to force extra time.

With the start of the second half came a new challenge in the shape of the behemoth, Ebere Paul Onuachu, who was the difference maker last time the two sides met. United continued to grow into the match for the 15 minutes that followed, and then up stepped the debuting 18-year-old, Manchester born forward Marcus Rashord to grasp a lead for the Reds. Rashford ran onto a superb pullback from Juan Mata, and as the ball rippled into the net the young United fan erupted in celebration as he wheeled away in celebration to be greeted by fellow United fans by the tunnel. This goal really seemed to settle this young United side, and front this point the tie never looked in doubt. The Reds continued to push looking to find the goal that would send them through, and just 12 minutes later they found it. Guillermo Varela, who was excellent on the night, swung in a peach of a cross from the right which was again met by that man, Marcus Rashford! Rashford nestled the ball into the back of the net, and again sprinted away to celebrate a dream brace on his first team debut. This goal redeemed Juan Mata who had previously had his feeble penalty attempt saved in the first half.

Shortly after the third goal, United fans were given a nice treat, the long awaited return of defender Marcos Rojo. In the 86th minute Jesse Lingard was removed from the game, and Pereira was introduced to receive some much overdue game time. And almost instantly after this change, another opportunity was given to United to end the game. Memphis Depay attempted to curl a shot towards the far right corner and it was blocked, rather blatantly, by the hand of Kian Hansen. After his earlier miss, Juan Mata was now relieved of his penalty duties and the responsibility was placed on Ander Herrera’s shoulders, although many would have liked to see Marcus Rashford offered the chance to complete a hat trick on his first start. Nonetheless it was Herrera who stepped up, and he made no mistake as he rifled it to the keepers right, and effectively ended the tie. However United didn't stop there and Memphis continued to push for a goal he must have felt, like many other, he thoroughly deserved. Then in the 90th minute he was granted his chance. He cut in from the left flank, found a pocket of space, and lashed a shot into the bottom left corner of the goal, completing a very solid performance on the night. The final whistle sounded shortly after and the club were through to the next round, eagerly awaiting the draw.

Now we must wait and see if United, and Memphis, can build on this performance and carry some of that quality into the league against some stronger opponents on a more consistent basis.

Next up in the Europa league is a very tasty encounter against a team United have never actually faced in European competition, bitter rivals Liverpool. That tie looks set to be another stellar round, with an extra edge to the occasion with the teams having such a fierce, historic rivalry.

So on a night where many of the more experienced players were absent due to injury, we yet again showed that you CAN win things with kids.

This was written by our newest member, Dylan Heath

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