Marcus Rashford fires United into Europa League semi-finals
Europa League, Old Trafford – Manchester United 2 (Mkhitaryan 10, Rashford 107) Anderlecht 1 (Hanni 32) – United win 3-2 on aggregate
A wondrous winner from Marcus Rashford, deep into extra-time, finally saw off Anderlecht to cap a thrilling night at Old Trafford and send United into the Europa League semi-finals.
For a short while, it looked like being an easy night for United. They took the lead on 10 minutes when excellent work from Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford created a chance which Henrikh Mkhitaryan powered home, and looked likely to add to their advantage in the following few minutes.
But Reuben Martinez made two excellent saves and Anderlecht then hauled themselves into the game; as such, it was no great surprise when Sofiane Hanni equalised, ramming home after good work from Youri Tielemans. 2-2 on aggregate.
At the start of the second half, United were again the better side, but could not create many chances until the arrival of Marouane Fellaini, after which they could not stop creating chances. Fellaini, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jesse Lingard, Rashford and Paul Pogba were all guilty of bad misses, but so well did they play that a goal seemed inevitable. Yet they could not score, and as they endeavoured one last opportunity in regulation time, Ibrahimovic injured his leg.
Though United would most likely have gone out with the concession of a second away goal, they tore into Anderlecht again in extra-time, crafting a further succession of chances before, in the second minute of its second period, Rashford took possession in the box, took a delicious first touch, paused, found a Cruyff turn out of nowhere, and slid home the winner.
So United progress, and at the end of the kind of onslaught for which they were once famed; they will fancy themselves to beat whoever comes next. And if they maintain the level of aggression that they showed tonight, they have a chance.
Will United be better without Ibrahimovic? For quite some time, it has been evident that Zlatan, at the same time as being the team's only reliable scorer, slows it down and misses too many good chances for a player who does little when not scoring, at the same time as blocking Marcus Rashford from playing in his natural position. Now, he is injured, and by the look of things for the foreseeable future. Do not be surprised to see United play with greater intensity and cohesion in his absence.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United)Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) Brilliant from start to finish, his pace, movement, invention and skill a constant threat. Even so, he was run close by Uros Spajic - or at least he was until sinking a joyous winning goal.
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) Getty Images
10’ - GOAL! United 1-0 Anderlecht (Mkhitaryan) agg 2-1. Pogba picks up a loose ball outside his own box, eludes Tielemans, and drives a gorgeous pass out to Rashford at inside-right. He immediately crosses low for Zlatan, and when Kara intercepts excellently, slides square for Mkhitaryan, who smashes his laces through a low shot that, though close to the keeper, is unsaveable.
32’ - GOAL! United 1-1 Anderlecht (Hanni) agg 2-2. Anderlecht have been excellent since going behind, and have earned this. A switch of play from left to right finds Hanni, who crosses, and eventually the ball reaches Tielemans, who lets one go from 20 yards. It flicks off Valencia, slams the bar, and lands at the feed of Teodorczyk. Blind does brilliantly to rob him, facing his own net, but the ball nudges across to Hanni, who smashes home from five yards.
49’ - SUPERB... ALMOST! Superb from Rashford, sliding a pass for Shaw powering into the box ahead of him! He beats Appiah on the outside and clips back a low one for Lingard, sliding in, but somehow, from three yards out, he imparts feather when tickle was needed, and oh my, how did that stay out!
69’ - WHAT A CHANCE FOR UNITED! Valencia makes a mess of a clearance following an Anderlecht corner, but is lucky to find Mkhitaryan, who humps long. Appiah then dawdles, Rashford runs him down, nicks the ball, and he's in! But Reuben is out quickly, Rashford decides to round him, and a heavy touch forces him wide, by which time Appiah is back in verey well to see the danger away.
71’ - CHANCE! United miss another one! Fellaini has made a big difference, and his flick-on finds Zlatan, left of the box. Six yards out, he could put his considerable foot through it, but instead opts to be dead deliberate, allowing Reuben to block. That is quite some oversight.
78’ - WHAT A CHANCE! Mkhitaryan's corner arrives perfectly on Pogba's foot, but, six yards out, the attentions of Obradovic are enough to have him spoon over!
92’ - RABONA ALERT! Brilliant, yet again from Rashford, pulling right, caning Stanciu, and picking up Pogba with a rabona! I know! And yerman catches the overhead lovely, except Spajic blocks, yet again!
107’ - WHAT A GOAL! AT LAST! United 2-1 Anderlecht (Rashford) agg 3-2. What a player this boy is going to be! What a player this boy already is! Shaw hits a diagonal at Fellaini, who knocks down ... but how much work is left to do! He controls beautifully on his laces, steadies, Cruyff turns his man, and rides a challenge to swipe a low left-footer past Reuben! Brilliantly done!
116’ - CHANCE! Anderlecht have a puncher's chance and they've started swinging! Kara heads into the box, Valencia heads away; Kara heads into the box, Bailly lets it go, and Acheampong is in! But he can't finish! Was that their moment?!
Marcus Rashford has been involved in four goals in his last four games, as many as in the 33 prior to then.