Tag Archives: Europa League

Manchester United With One Foot In Europa League Semi-Final

Manchester United will return home with a 2-0 aggregate lead in their Europa League quarter-final tie, and have surely cemented a place in the semi-finals. 

Spanish Minnows Overwhelmed

With Granada looking overwhelmed by their more famous opponents under the bright lights of the big stage, United took the lead after 31 minutes courtesy of a Marcus Rashford strike. 

In the second half, the home side came into the match, and had spells of pressure of their own, but couldn’t find an equaliser. 

With the game heading toward the final moments, and still just a solitary goal separating the teams, it looked like it would still be all to play for next week at Old Trafford. 

However, in the dying moments, Granada’s Yan Brice Eteki inexplicably knocked Bruno Fernandes to the ground in the box, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. 

The decision was confirmed by VAR, and Fernandes stepped up to take the penalty. 

It wasn’t the Portuguese playmakers best penalty in a United shirt, and it was a moment to rue for Rui Silva who guessed correctly, got down to the shot, but couldn’t keep the ball out of the net. 

With two away goals to take to Old Trafford, a comeback is surely beyond the Spaniards, even though United will be without captain Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, and Scott McTominay, who all picked up bookings that rule them out of the return leg. 

Manchester United Approach Won’t Change For Second Leg

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the approach of his club will remain the same for the second leg of the quarter-final of the Europa League tie.

“It’s not a prefect night, of course we get three yellow cards and three suspensions for the next game, but a 2-0 result is a very good result. Of course we know how difficult it is coming to Spain to get these kinds of results, we have to play well to get them and [I’m] very happy with the result.”

“We want to win every game of football, because this is still a young team, it’s a learning team. We have to improve over time, we know in football it catches you so quickly if you rest and we cannot have any other approach than go forward and try to create chances and score goals, Especially at home, Old Trafford, we feel good at home of course,” said Solskjaer.

Praise For Rashford, Fernandes, Lindelof

While Solskjaer often says his squad win and lose as a team, and rarely praises individuals, he did note some stand out performers on what proved to be a tricky away fixture. 

“They’ve been exceptional, they have been so good for us and they’re so important for us. The first goal, very good run by Rashford and he takes the ball fantastically and a fantastic finish, and Bruno, I know he’s so confident on penalties. Even though the goalkeeper almost saved it, it was enough to give us a good lead.”

“Victor [Lindelof]. He kept us glued together. He was good on the ball, took command, and what a pass for the first goal!”

Another Clean Sheet

As United reach the critical run in to what they hope to be a second-place Premier League finish and Europa League triumph, the team will come to rely on their defence to be rock-solid. 

As their manager noted, another clean sheet was an important step in the right direction. 

“It’s a foundation to build a performance from. Today we didn’t hit the levels we normally do with the ball: passing and the combination play. We didn’t really hit the standard that we’re used to but we did enough to get a good result to take back.”

Before the return leg, United visit Tottenham, and will be reunited with their former manager Jose Mourinho who inflicted a 6-1 drubbing on his former side at Old Trafford earlier in the season. 

While both teams fortunes have changed dramatically since then, another defensive performance such as tonight’s effort in Spain could set the stage for yet another away win in 2021 for the Red Devils. 

Paul Pogba Fires Manchester United Into Europa League Quarter Finals

With his teams Round of 16 clash on a knife edge at the San Siro, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba made his return from injury in the second half of the second leg, and within minutes had fired his team into a 1-0 lead.

While the mercurial Frenchman often frustrates fans, many of whom didn’t want to see Pogba pull on a United shirt again after his agent claimed his player should leave in the January transfer window, there is no doubt United are a better team with him on the pitch.

Bruno Fernandes, who has carried the bulk of United’s creative work while Pogba was out injured, was visibly relieved to have his partner in crime alongside him in United’s engine room for the crucial second half.

While the Europa League Round of 16 isn’t the biggest stage of all, any appearance at the San Siro is a big moment, so when Pogba rifled his shot home from close range, it seemed as if the script had been written for him – not his good friend Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the opposition dugout.

Huge Week For Manchester United

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had earlier acknowledged that it was a huge week for the club, who were following up their vital 1-0 home win over West Ham in the Premier League with this second leg tie, before facing Leicester in the FA Cup quarter finals.

The manager was delighted with the performance, and goal, from the fit-again Pogba, and was full of praise for the influence of the Frenchman.

“I’m very happy of course. A very well-done job, because they were two very even games really. It was always going to be decided on a piece of quality, or a piece of magic from someone. A set-play maybe. Dean [Henderson] had a fantastic save towards the end from Zlatan’s [Ibrahimovic] header. It was a very good goal by Paul [Pogba]. I think we did enough to go through. We’ve come through a very difficult tie against a fantastic club and a very good team.”

“We’ve missed Paul. He’s been out for almost two months and of course any team would miss a player like Paul Pogba and he was just getting into his best form. And for us he’s going to give us a really big boost for the rest of the season. Today he made a very, very big difference for us. Technically, he’s one of the best footballers around. It was a very good slot. I’m very happy for Paul that he’s back now and the boys have done very well in the two months without him. We’ve worked hard, playing a game every three days and now we’ve added Donny, David’s back and hopefully Anthony and Edinson are back soon, so it’s looking bright.”

Another Clean Sheet

Although the goals had dried up in recent weeks, United’s defence have held their opponents at bay, giving the team confidence as they go chasing goals, such as the crucial goal in Milan.

“You give yourself a chance to win a game of football [with clean sheets]. Dean [Henderson] had a fantastic save towards the end from the big lad [Zlatan Ibrahimovic] and I’m very pleased with everyone’s defending. From the front you see Dan James, Mason [Greenwood], Marcus [Rashford] and Bruno [Fernandes] – the front four all pressing like they did. We always know that the back six, with Scott [McTominay] and Fred and the back four, always give everything,” added Solskjaer.

United Look To Take Next Step

With United knocking out AC Milan, who were arguably the favourites for the competition, they have given themselves a good chance to progress all the way to the final.

As their manager knows though, you do need a slice of luck in cup competitions…

“It’s going to be difficult, no matter what. We’ve beaten Sociedad, we’ve beaten AC Milan so we’re confident in our own ability. We know we have to turn up, we have to play well. We can’t play like we did, for spells in the first half at times in the last game against Milan, coming into it with no intensity. We’ve got league games, Europa League games, and we’re looking forward to it. That’s what we want. This is the only way we can improve, by getting used to winning games that matter. You’ve got to be spot on when you play in cup competitions as anything can happen. Today I thought it was a penalty for Dan James in the first five minutes or whatever it was. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. Anything can happen in cup competitions, but we’re through, we’re confident and looking forward to the draw.”

“Momentum is underrated in football. When you keep winning games, you get that boost of energy, you get that feeling when you go on to the pitch. You’re more confident. If you’re losing, you’re afraid of losing again and afraid of making mistakes. This means a lot for the boys and the atmosphere is good in the dressing room. We’ve just got to recover quickly because there’s a game again on Sunday which we’re looking forward to. We’ve got a breather from the league, but it’s a big game again, a quarter-final and we dust ourselves down and go again,” concluded Solskjaer.

With one game left before the international break, full focus now turns to an away game against Leicester in an FA Cup quarter final showdown.

Win that, and the belief will grow that United can get their hands on some silverware this year.

AC Milan In Box Seat After Last-Gasp Old Trafford Equaliser

AC Milan are in the box seat to progress from their Europa League Round of 16 tie with Manchester United after a 92nd minute equaliser gave them a priceless away goal to take home to Italy.

The match-up had all the makings of a big European night at Old Trafford, reminiscent of Champions League battles of years past, except it was Thursday night at an empty stadium, with big names lacking on both team sheets.

Milan was without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, injury ruling him out of an Old Trafford return, while the hosts were missing Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba, while Luke Shaw was only fit enough to make the bench.

AC Milan Started Brightly

Despite not having their talisman on the pitch, Milan started brightly, hitting the back of the net in the fifth minute with a goal that was chalked off for offside.

Seven minutes later Franck Kessie rifled a superb shot past Dean Henderson, but the visitors were to be denied once again, as VAR adjudged Kessie used his hand to control the ball.

With Milan in the ascendancy it could have been a horrible evening for Manchester United, but the hosts clawed their way back into the match, and should have gone ahead but for an inexplicable miss from captain Harry Maguire, who failed to tap the ball in from on the goal line, hitting the post instead.

First Manchester United Goal For Amad Diallo

Having gone into the break at 0-0 United could have thought themselves lucky to still be in the tie, and made the most of it in the 50th minute when Amad Diallo, on as a half-time substitute for Anthony Martial, got on the end of a beautifully floated ball from Bruno Fernandes to back-header the ball over Gianluigi Donnarumma and into the back of the net for his first goal in United’s colours.

The hosts should have gone on to score more, but in the 70th minute Daniel James conspired to miss an open goal, leaving the game on a knife edge going into the closing stages.

Late Equaliser For Milan

With time winding down, Milan had one more chance from a corner deep into stoppage time.

As the ball swung in, Simon Kjaer got a head to it, and Dean Henderson flapped at what should have been a routine save to give the visitors the upper hand going into the second leg.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Disappointed With Performance

After playing brilliantly to dismantle Manchester City 2-0 away from home on the weekend, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was pleased with the individual performance of Amad Diallo, but disappointed with the teams performance as a whole.

“In possession today, we were too slow. Even though we had the same amount of possession as them, we never used the ball well enough and never played it quick enough. We started really slow and are disappointed in that.”

“He’s (Amad) creative and he plays with freedom. Great pass from Bruno [Fernandes] by the way, that’s what makes the goal. Amad, he has been on the pitch before, but a good goal. He has loads to learn and he’ll be better having had that [time].”

“I’m sure the players, the ones who get chances, they take them. Amad took his chance today when he came on. We hope Anthony is not too bad, we hope Marcus [Rashford] may hopefully [be back]. Definitely for the away tie, we don’t know about the weekend but let’s see. We’ll get players back hopefully, they’ll get players back, so it’ll be a good game with two good teams. Hopefully, Marcus is ready for next weekend on Thursday, I’m not sure about the weekend. [Edinson] Cavani, maybe as well for the Milan game away. We should be putting a stronger team on paper anyway.”

As a ruthless finisher in his playing days, Solskjaer felt Maguire should have made more of his effort, which could have changed the complexion of the tie.

“It’s a decent-sized chance that to be fair! I think the keeper gets his hand to it and changes the direction of it. It’s a reaction and unfortunately it hits the inside of the post and goes out. That’s a big moment. Dan [James] had a big moment in the second half, he could have slid instead of trying to score. We’re here, we know where we are and we need to go there and score. We’ve done that many a time in Europe.

While many felt Henderson should have kept out the equaliser, Solskjaer felt the defending should have been better at the death.

“Well, it’s a header from six yards. He can save it from there; I’ve seen him save from there. But it’s the structure we lose, we dropped a yard or two too deep and we get blocked. Kjaer makes a good run, he’s strong and his marker is blocked off and he gets the header on it. We should have attacked the ball with the men we had there. It’s disappointing but that can happen. I’ve been part of a team that scored in injury-time in Europe myself from a set-play!“

While confidence was high after the derby win, the team came crashing back down to earth tonight, but the manager feels the teams away record will hold them in good stead when the team travel to the San Siro next week.

“It’s sometimes hard on the back of the game [at City] we had, but that’s the learning we have to get into ourselves and you have to perform every single week against good teams, because these are definitely a good team.”

“Of course our away form has been really good and we’ve created chances enough. We’ve scored goals away from home and we’ve got the character, personality to bounce back. We’ve been exciting and efficient away from home, especially in the last round against Real Sociedad. That’s a template on how we want to play in games. First of all though, West Ham then Milan,” concluded Solskjaer.

United have made a habit of making things difficult for themselves over the years, even with Sir Alex Ferguson in charge. That tradition has been continued under Solskjaer, who will hope to find some of the magic that pushed United through their European challenges back in 1999.

Manchester United Reunited With Zlatan In Mouth-Watering Europa League Tie

In the tie of the round, Manchester United have been drawn against AC Milan in a Europa League round of 16 that will see them match up with former friend Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The first match will take place at Old Trafford on March 11, with the return leg in Milan a week later.

On loan defender Diogo Dalot is eligible to play for Milan, in a match up that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes has a Champions League feel to it.

“It’s a nice birthday gift, isn’t it? To watch that draw! We do have the tradition of making it hard for ourselves in draws. It’s one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game. It’s good for us to have these games to look forward to. This team needs challenges and we enjoy challenges and we embrace them.”

“The tradition and history of AC Milan, it’s a great club that we welcome and it’s a great stadium that we go to there, and we’re looking forward to it.”

“Zlatan, of course, I’ve been so impressed, I’ve got to say, by how his career has gone. He had a career-threatening injury when he was here but came back from that and went to [the] MLS, then came back to Milan and has really lifted them. They’re on the up and have done really well this season. I’ve been so impressed by him, and Diogo we know. He went there to get some experience at a big club and he’s learned a lot.”

“He’s played a lot more games this season, kept fit and, hopefully, we can give him some bother!” said Solskjaer.

The addition of the showdown with Milan is another in a long list of big match ups in March, beginning with this weekends match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

“We just have to focus and tick one game off at a time and, as you say, the [next] three games are massive.”

“We’ve got Chelsea just behind us, we’ve got City away in front of us and of course we can’t let them run further away if we have ambitions of catching them and we can’t give Chelsea too much hope of catching us either.”

“Every game is important and from now until the international break will be a big period. We always say, let’s look at April and May and see how we are then, so let’s get to the international break and then we can focus on the run-in.”

While the beginning of March is crucial to the clubs fortunes in 2021, the manager believes there will still be plenty of twists and turns in the later months of 2020/21.

“Yes, I think it is going to be a long-running [battle in the league]. I don’t think the positions will be decided early.”

“The season is unpredictable, we’ve seen teams go through bad phases and turn it around. Who knows what’s going to happen with injuries and with how players react to the circumstances because it is the shortest long season ever with the amount of games.”

“For me, every game is massive. Of course, Chelsea, we know how difficult that’s going to be and how important that’s going to be.”

“It is still 38 games for every team so if you get a run, either good or bad, it’s going to impact you.”

“Of course, our group and the culture, bouncing back after a couple of setbacks we’ve had, going through now, it is an important period. Our group mentality is really good, and we look forward to these big games.”

Drab Draw Sees Manchester United Through In Europa League

Manchester United v Real Sociedad

A drab 0-0 draw at home to Real Sociedad has seen Manchester United safely through to the Round of 16 in the Europa League.

Mikel Oyarzabal missed a penalty for the visitors in the 13th minute, while Bruno Fernandes hit the crossbar and Axel Tuanzebe had a clear goal ruled out after the referee checked the pitchside monitor and decided Victor Lindelof had committed a foul.

While the match lacked the usual spark of a big European night at Old Trafford, United will be happy to have progressed, while Real Sociedad go home with their pride intact after putting in a better performance than the 4-0 mauling they received in the first leg.

For manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the night was all about progressing to the next round.

“We played against a very good team and the start of the game showed why it was important [to pick a strong team]. You don’t want to go into half-time one or two down. I felt the first 10 or 15 minutes were slow and then we played some very good stuff. I think it shows how good the performance was last week.”

“We want to go further [in the Europa League]. When you have failed in four semifinals, you want to improve.”

“We wanted to score goals. Our goal can be discussed. It’s a foul against Victor [Lindelof] but I don’t know if it’s actually influenced the actual goal. I don’t know about the ins and outs of that one. We’re through and that’s it. It’s a good workout for a few of course, so we should be pleased because they’re a good team, a very good team and I think we saw that tonight. Normally when you’re 4-0 up it’s hard to get going really. It looked it. We needed that wake-up call of their penalty, but after that I felt we took over the first half. The second half was more slower.”

The team was a vastly different one from that which will line up against Chelsea on the weekend, with Shola Shoretire making his European debut, more time on the pitch for Amad Diallo, and Tuanzebe being deployed as a midfielder.

“Shola he’s got some skills, attributes that we think are going to make a very good player here and it’s a platform of course tonight – just 15 minutes – it’s something to build on, something for him to remember at Old Trafford. But then again with the fans, he would have enjoyed it more because they give you so much more energy than football at the moment. It is strange, it is different but I’m sure all the fans will see him later on.”

“Fred came off, he had a booking so I didn’t want to take a chance with him. It’s about getting through the round. 4-0 away from home and we kept another clean sheet. Well done!”

“Midfield is one of those positions now we suddenly have Scott, Donny and Paul out. We’ve been really well off before and now we might have to look at options because I’m not sure if any will be available [for Chelsea]. Paul’s definitely not I don’t know about Donny or Scott.”

With several key injuries in midfield, and with an eye to the weekend clash away to Chelsea, it was surprising to see Bruno Fernandes in the starting line-up.

The midfielder is key to United’s ambitions in 2021 and beyond, and United fans would have breathed a collective sigh of relief to see the Portuguese maestro substituted at half time, coming through the opening 45 minutes unscathed.

An injury to Daniel James was perhaps the only low point of the evening for Solskjaer.

“He had a tweak. With the intensity he works at he felt something, so we hope it’s not really serious. It gave Amad a chance to have half an hour-ish.”

After the disappointment of falling at the semi-final stage last season, the manager is looking for a long cup run that culminates in an appearance in the final this time around.

“You remember the defeats more so than the wins and especially semi-finals. You’re so close to the final and the big stage and we’ve had three of them, we’ve already had one of them this season so this group feels hurt of course and want to go further.”

“We are a group that’s very tied together, you have to be at the moment because there’s not a lot else you’re doing and that’s the interaction you have with people. You come in and you work every day. We want to go further and we failed, not failed, you’ve failed in three semi-finals, you want to do better and improve and the culture is really improving. Of course at the moment it’s a little bit different because the coaches are away, but we’ve got some fantastic experience, some good coaches with us. It’s exciting, it’s a group of players that will only improve because we’re still a young team.”

The night was a feather in the cap of Manchester United’s academy, as six of the 16 players fielded by Solskjaer have risen through the clubs ranks.

Dean Henderson and Mason Greenwood were both in the starting eleven, while Shola Shoretire, Marcus Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe, and Brandon Williams all came off the bench.

Ethan Galbraith, another product of the Academy, was also on the bench but was an unused substitute.

United now have a run of crunch fixtures coming up in March, and the manager believes the confidence in the squad will be a big plus as the matches come thick and fast.

“Now until the international break we’ve got seven or eight games and of course you have Chelsea, you have Leicester, you have City, massive games… West Ham too. There are important games in the league, you’ve got Palace away, then who knows who we’ll draw. So there’s three or four weeks now until the international break that are going to be massive for us. We’re in a good place, confidence is good, hopefully we get a few players back in and Dan tonight wasn’t hopefully too bad,” concluded Solskjaer.

Four-midable Manchester United Batter Real Sociedad In First Leg

Bruno Fernandes | Real Sociedad v Manchester United 2021 Europa League

Thanks to goals from Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Daniel James, Manchester United have beaten Real Sociedad 4-0 away from home in their Europa League Round of 32 clash, and have all but punched their ticket to the next round.

After stuttering results in the Premier League of late, the Red Devils produced one of their best team performances of the season as they look to get their trophy chase back on track.

There was also a first-team debut for teenage sensation Amad Diallo, the new signing coming off the bench in the 83rd minute for a cameo appearance.

On a bright night for Manchester United there was one sour note, an injury to Scott McTominay that may see the Scotland international miss the upcoming fixture against Newcastle United.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt like his team were back to their best after recent disappointments.

“We spoke about it before the game that we need to be back to ourselves. Not more direct but attack quicker, see where there is a chance and we knew it was an away game, even if it was at a neutral venue, we knew the goals were going to count more for us. So why not take a risk, go forward, risk some balls in behind? We knew they would have a high line and not have the same pace as Marcus and Dan so we targeted those spaces. We just wanted to be back to ourselves again. The last few weeks, I don’t know how you say it in English but it’s been staccato, stop start and we’ve not really performed. It was about finding ourselves, being positive, having courage and running until you have to come off.”

“Every team attacks you, they do have attacks, so it’s about finding the moments when you have space in behind, or if you have space in between, or if you have space around them. We feel that we are a work in progress, we are learning. The season has been a little bit inconsistent. We’ve not been able to win lately, but the little X-Factor, I feel we got back today. We played well, we were more clinical in front of goal, of course even though we had a few chances before we got the first one. Definitely, when we got the second one, the game opened up and we found ourselves in loads of space,” said Solskjaer.

Bruno Fernandes has made a massive impact since joining from Sporting Lisbon just over 12 months ago, and one wonders where United’s season would be without their talisman.

The Portuguese midfielder scored another two goals in his stellar season, earning further praise from his manager.

“We do create chances and he [Bruno] gets them. He’s good at finding spaces and his technical ability when it comes to chances is top class. Two very good goals. Bruno always wants to do the next thing correctly. He wants to do the next thing at the best of his ability and that is a very good attribute and quality to have. You never rest on your laurels. If he scores two, he wants three, if he gets an assist, he wants another one. He drives everyone on, of course, sometimes he drives too much and wants to do too much. Tonight, he played his position really well and was in the spaces we wanted him and we can see how efficient he is.”

After falling to Sevilla at the semi-final stage of last season’s Europa League competition, Solskjaer is hoping his team can take the next step and make it to the final this time around.

“We didn’t get anything back from last season’s Europa League run, that’s for sure. We can talk about being in the semi-final and, in the end, we got nothing out of that so maybe sometimes you could look at it not being worth it. But I think the experience from last season has helped this team, these boys, and we have got to learn from experiences on the job. That’s the only way of learning from your mistakes to correct them. I’ve got to say the semi-final defeat last season is still in the back of our heads. Of course, it hurts. We played a very good Sevilla team and felt we should have gone all the way,” concluded Solskjaer.

Bruno Fernandes echoed the thoughts of his manager as he looks to pick up his first winners medal at United.

“It’s about winning, we want to win the games and today we did everything well. The result is on our side but we have the second leg and still have a tough game to come at our home. We want to win again to go through. We know 4-0 is a good result but we have to be aware of what Real Sociedad can do and be ready for the second leg.”

“My target is scoring the most goals I can and obviously get as many assists for my team-mates to score too.”

“The position I play in is to do that, to assist, and score when you can. The most important for me though, the target, is the trophies. Winning trophies is more important than scoring goals.”

While pleased with the result, Fernandes was happier that the swagger returned to the team in a confidence-building display ahead of a tough set of fixtures in March.

“We don’t have to look at the results. We have to look at the performance,” Bruno said, before emphasising the importance of constant improvement.

“We know we haven’t performed well in some games but still, in some games, we have not got the result we wanted after performing well. We need to understand that we have to grow up, get better and better and, of course, the most important thing is the results. They give you a bit more confidence to go into the next game and try to win again.”

While four goals helps the feel-good feeling return for fans and players alike, all involved with the club know there are bigger fish to fry in the coming weeks that will determine whether or not this season ends with success.