The Warm-Up: Grinders keepers as Manchester United stumble on in Europe
Jack Lang checks in for his third Warm-Up of the week, which is surely some kind of record...
FRIDAY’S BIG STORIES
Rash, bang, wallop
Crikey, they made it look difficult. Faced with a hard-working but fundamentally mediocre Anderlecht side, Manchester United huffed and puffed, creating chance upon chance but failing to add to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s opener as the 90 minutes ticked by.
Nerves jangled. Zlatan Ibrahimovic compiled a catalogue of misses and stray passes. Marouane Fellaini came on and gave away a few fouls. On the touchline, Jose Mourinho squirmed and laughed pointedly at refereeing decisions. Penalties beckoned.
Thank goodness, then, for Marcus Rashford. The forward came up trumps late in extra-time, capping another lively display with a goal of real quality.
What a talent the 19-year-old is – and what a player he will be if he continues to develop at the current rate. Even stationed out on the left flank, he was United’s most potent threat for much of the match, flying past his full-back time and again. Yes, his finishing was erratic at times, but consistency will come. Certainly, he won’t lack for chances with that knack for making the right run and his searing pace.
Just three matches now stand between the Red Devils and Europa League glory. It wasn’t a night for the ages, but you sense Mourinho, the old grinder supreme, won’t mind that too much. He’ll take a place in next season’s Champions League no matter how it comes.
Manchester United feiert den Einzug ins HalbfinaleSID
Counting the cost
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows at the end of the night for United, for they lost two key players with what looked liked nasty injuries. First, Marcos Rojo was forced off on a stretcher after a heavy blow to his right knee, which he probably exacerbated by trying to play on.
Then, in extra-time, Ibrahimovic landed awkwardly after an aerial challenge and appeared to hyperextend his knee. He too needed to be substituted and Mourinho – who is already hampered by a lengthy list of absentees, lest we forget – would be forgiven for fearing the worst.
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic receives medical attentionEurosport
And here’s an advert featuring Valderrama, Ivan Zamorano and Gabriel Batistuta in a nursing home. Goodness knows why, but it’s funny nonetheless:
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: Anthony Lopez
Spare a thought this morning for poor old Mamadou Sakho, whose career-disrupting drug ban is starting to look a little questionable in hindsight. On Thursday, UEFA rebuked the World Anti-Doping Agency over his 2016 suspension, pointing out that the fat-stripper used by the defender was not actually on the list of substances banned.
“Higenamine is not expressly mentioned by name on WADA’s prohibited list,” read a UEFA statement. “The onus is clearly on WADA to communicate to its laboratories what is and what is not on the prohibited list. There are clearly gaps in communication.”
Crystal Palace's Mamadou SakhoEurosport
Good news for fans of bright lights, video montages and making things last way longer than they should: the draw for the Champions League and Europa League semi-finals takes place at 11am. The Warm-Up picked Andreas Möller’s name from the hat in the middling-Euro-star-copresenter sweepstake, so fingers crossed.