Manchester United sneaked a 1-0 victory during their Europa League semi-final against Celta de Vigo, owing to a goal by Marcus Rashford.
The atmosphere at Balaidos was electric as both teams faced off against each other for the very first time. A struggling powerhouse versus an underdog Spanish team – both playing for glory. A lot might be expected from a tie like that, but unfortunately, the game was boring on several occasions.
When the game began, it almost looked as if both teams were unsure of what to do. Celta played a very cautious game, putting all their energy into ensuring that United got nowhere near scoring. That approach is likely to change in the second leg, as that will be a bigger test.
The Red Devils had several chances to score in the first half while Celta’s attack seemed lifeless.
In the second half, Celta Vigo looked more composed and in charge, but then came Marcus Rashford. Hugo Mallo was booked for obstructing Rashford and th youngster went ahead and played a perfect free-kick beyond Alvarez to bring the first goal in for United.
Read on to know the five talking points of the game:
Marcus Rashord truly is United’s new golden boy
While Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury came as a major blow to Manchester United, the club are lucky to have a player like Marcus Rashford in their ranks. He has indeed risen up to the responsibilty ever since Ibrahimovic’s tragic injury.
Despite picking up several important goals for United, people were still apprehensive about his form and mentality, and how he would handle so much pressure, given his age. However, the 19-year-old has shut every critic down. He has played a crucial hand in Manchester United’s Champions League hopes, and will continue to be vital for the team.
Jose Mourinho: "He's a 19-year-old kid in love with football. He works, he's mature and what matters is not his age but his quality." pic.twitter.com/xO0W99PSfo
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 4, 2017
Rashford has directly been involved in the last three goals for Manchester United in the Europa League, as he scored two and assisted one.
Towards the end of the game, Rashford hobbled off not long after and Ashley Young went off with a hamstring injury, and fans can only hope that it is not anything serious.
Paul Pogba’s importance to Manchester United
Ever since he joined the club, Paul Pogba has been victim to a fair share of criticism due to his lukewarm season at Manchester United. He was paid a record-breaking fee which led to weighty expectations, and the Frenchman failed to live up to them.
However, the former Juventus man was crucial for the Reds at the Balaídos by establishing a strong command over the midfield. He kept the play moving with his clean passing and was powerful in terms of agility and strength.
Paul Pogba's game by numbers vs. Celta Vigo:
100% take-ons completed
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 4, 2017
Manchester United’s struggles without him in the derby against Manchester City and the match at home to Swansea City just go to show how the player actually matters for the club.
Celta Vigo’s lacklustre performance
The Spanish club started moderately well. They even got the first clear chance of the game because of Wass, but the player failed to materialise anything out of it.
From that point on, Celta lacked the strength to put United under pressure. Mourinho’s men seemed too comfortable in the midfield, and Herrera and Pogba did just as they pleased in that area, with no fight from Celta Vigo.
Celta Vigo’s celebrated strikers Guidetti and Aspas did little to even bother the United defence. Romero made some routine stops but Celta could not do anything to get behind the English club’s nerves, and perhaps tried to play a little too cautiously.
A new Eric at Manchester United
Eric Cantona is one player every United fan remembers and will continue to do so for a long time. Meanwhile, Eric Bailly has certainly made his presence felt in the side. Bailly has become an indispensable player for the club, and that showed during this game.
The defender was again pivotal at the back, helping United stay strong with yet another vital clean sheet for David de Gea. A combined force of Bailly and Daley Blind kept any sort of threat from Celta Vigo at bay.
Eric Bailly, the black Nemanja Vidic👊🏼
— United Report (@ManUtdReport_) May 4, 2017
Prior to this match, Bailly was an injury concern after he was substituted during the game against Swansea. However, he fought his injury issues in time to be fit for the clash against Celta. He will play a major role again during the second leg, and even in the final, if United progresses ahead.
Champions League dream not too far for United?
Manchester United picked up a huge advantage with that victory, and this could potentially brighten up the club’s otherwise gloomy hopes of Champions League qualification.
With the Europa League not looking so bad, United will have a more difficult run in the Premier League with away games at Arsenal, Spurs and Southampton. This win will definitely prove to good motivation, but will it be enough?
"When Old Trafford wants us to win, we win!" 👊👊
Jose Mourinho is in defiant mood ahead of next week's second leg.
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) May 4, 2017
Also, these back-to-back fixtures will take a major toll on a side which is already battling several injury concerns. It does seem a bit far-fetched to think that the club will perform well in both the Premier League as well as the upcoming Europa League matches, and they might have to prioritize, but what will they choose?