Manchester United smashed six goals past A.S. Roma in their first leg semi-final clash, putting one foot firmly in the final of the Europa League.
After a Bruno Fernandes opener, United found themselves 2-1 down at half-time thanks to goals from Lorenzo Pellegrini and Edin Džeko, but five goals in the second half from Edinson Cavani (x2), Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood has all but secured United’s flight to Poland.
It was another comeback from Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men, but this time, they did not take their foot off the gas. It was a tremendous second half display and it was needed after a lacklustre first half.
Story of the game
It was the perfect start for the hosts, as Bruno Fernandes scored his first open-play goal in 16 matches, after a beautifully worked move.
After receiving the ball from Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba did superbly to bypass three Roma players with his close control and strength. The Frenchman then found a pass to Edinson Cavani inside the area, whose first-time pass in behind was perfect for Fernandes, who made an intelligent run into the box on the left side.
The Portuguese midfielder showed a touch of class as he lifted the ball over the top of Pau López and gave United an early lead which they would’ve wanted to protect.
They protected that lead for… six minutes, as the man who created the first goal for the Reds, gave away a penalty at the other end of the field.
After a run on the right flank, Rick Karsdorp reached the byline and looked to cross the ball into David de Gea’s area and the Frenchman attempted to block the cross with a sliding challenge. However, with both of his arms in the air, Pogba’s complaints when the ball struck his arm while sliding were futile.
It was Lorenzo Pellegrini who stepped up to take the penalty and he calmly slotted the ball into the left side of the goal, netting his ninth goal of the season and giving his side a vital away goal.
Other than Pogba injuring the goalkeeper with a long range effort, which led to him being replaced by Antonio Mirante, United were unable to create a chance before Roma surprisingly took the lead on 33 minutes, courtesy of a goal from 35-year-old, Edin Džeko.Embed from Getty Images
After Leonardo Spinazzola went on a mazy run down Roma’s left flank, he squared the ball to former-Red, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who then found Pellegrini in behind the United defence with a clever reverse pass. The goalscorer then turned provider, with a lovely low cross to the former Manchester City striker, who couldn’t miss when the ball reached him.
The Red Devils should’ve levelled the scoring just before the half-time whistle, but Edinson Cavani was unable to exploit a defensive mistake from Ibañez. The Uruguayan shot twice in a row and was denied on shot occasions when a pass to Pogba was perhaps a better option.
Although they were down, United were certainly not out and it was clear that if they were able to perform well in the second half, they could blow Roma away. That is exactly what happened.
It was only two minutes after the restart that Solskjær’s men were able to equalise and it was a peach of a finish from United’s number seven, after he linked up with Fernandes and Pogba to score yet again.
After receiving a pass from Pogba on the break, Cavani bounced the ball to Fernandes and the midfielder drove towards the opposition box. Fernandes then released a return pass to his striker inside of the area, who fired a first-time shot into the top right-hand corner.
It was not long after until United took the lead, with Cavani bagging his second of the game and 12th of the season. After Fernandes received the ball on the edge of the area, he did well to avoid a tempting shot, and instead found a pass to Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was free on the right side of the box.
The right-back might’ve not found the back of the net with his shot, but the goalkeeper did him a favour by spilling the ball straight into Cavani’s path, who made no mistake from four yards out and put the Reds 3-2 up.Embed from Getty Images
It was another former United man who helped extend the lead, as Chris Smalling clumsily fouled Cavani after a low-cross into the penalty area. Of course, Fernandes expertly converted from 12 yards, giving United a two goal lead.
The attacks did not stop though, and four minutes later, on 74 minutes, it was 5-2 after a great headed goal from Pogba.
A short corner routine led to a deeper cross into the box from Fernandes and it was a perfect cross towards the back post and Pogba leapt well to head into the top left corner.
No, we’re not done yet.
In yet another counter attack, United were able to increase their lead, which was already healthy. This time, substitute Mason Greenwood secured his sixth goal in his last eight games.
As the ball bounced towards Cavani, he played a gorgeous pass with the outside of his boot across the pitch to the 19-year-old and it allowed him to run towards goal. Head down, driving towards the box – Greenwood then struck a shot across goal with his right foot and found the back of the net, while the goalkeeper could’ve done better, the hosts will not care in the slightest.
United hit six for the third time this season and displayed a sensational second half performance which puts them in pole position to enter the final of the competition.
A Bruno Fernandes masterclass
After 15 games without an open-play goal, there began to be murmurs about Bruno Fernandes’ form for the Red Devils. Those murmurs were firmly shut down by the man himself as he proved, yet again, why he is a top class player.
With two goals and two assists in the semi-final, United’s Portuguese magnifico put on a show in the final third. He now has 26 goals and 16 assists for the season. His output has simply been incredible.Embed from Getty Images
Alongside this, we have saw a more well-rounded approach to his game as the season has progressed, which has perhaps slightly impacted his direct contributions to goals but it certainly did not impact him tonight.