History repeated itself as Manchester United steamrolled AS Roma 6-2 in the 2020-21 UEFA Europa League semifinal first leg at Old Trafford.
The last time these two sides faced off in European competition was in the 2006-07 season when Sir Alex Ferguson’s United side put 7 past Roma back then. Michael Carrick, who was on the sidelines as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Assistant Manager last night, starred in that game netting two sublime goals for the Red Devils.
This was the first time that a side had scored more than 5 goals in a European semifinal as United came back from a disappointing first half that saw them go into the break 2-1 down.
Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani were sublime as both bagged a brace and had assists to show for as Manchester United have taken a major step towards finally making it to a final under Solskjaer’s management.
Fernandes gave United the perfect start in the 9th minute itself as he chipped the goalkeeper perfectly after some terrific build-up play by Paul Pogba who dribbled through three of Roma’s players before playing a neat pass to Cavani whose first-time lay-off pass played the Portuguese star through on goal.
United’s lead lasted only 6 minutes, however, as Paul Pogba slid in to block a low cross in the box that deflected off his leg and onto his hand that was deemed as a handball offence.
This allowed Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini to equalise as he calmly beat David de Gea with a powerful penalty. The hosts continued to dominate proceedings but a lapse on the defensive end cost them dearly as Pellegrini was allowed space to pick out former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko who comfortably passed the ball into an empty net to score his sixth goal in five appearances against the Red Devils to turn the tie on its head at half-time.
United rallied after the break and it was an absolutely dominating performance from there on in. Bruno Fernandes returned the favour when he played Cavani through with a lovely through pass that the Uruguayan smashed into the top corner to level things up in the 48th minute.
The onslaught began after this as 16 minutes later, Cavani pounced on a parry by substitute goalkeeper Antonio Mirante from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s shot to make it 3-2 for the home side. The visitors were at their mercy after this for the entire game.
Roma will feel a bit hard done by as former Manchester United defender Chris Smalling conceded a soft penalty for a foul on Cavani that Fernandes comfortably dispatched to put United 4-2 up in the 71st minute.
The goals did not stop here, however, as United showed ruthlessness in their attempt to seal the deal in the first leg itself. 4 minutes later, Fernandes turned provider once again as he played in a delightful cross that an unmarked Pogba latched onto perfectly with his head to make it 5-2.
The in-form Mason Greenwood was brought on shortly after for Marcus Rashford and the young Englishman had an immediate impact as he scored United’s sixth for the game as Cavani picked him out with a beautiful pass and then the teenager did the rest.
The final scoreline may have not matched United’s epic 7-1 Champions League triumph in 2007 but for Solskjaer, a substitute on that night, it was just as sweet.
After four successive semi-final defeats, the Norwegian really needed to get beyond that stage to silence his critics and to bring some silverware to the Old Trafford faithful.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told BT Sport: “No, I don’t feel the job is done but it was a good job done. We did well but we know they have quality – the second half was very good.
“It’s easy thinking who should play, but who should not play?
“That’s a very good team, it worked really good against Tottenham. Mason Greenwood should be disappointed not to be playing but it’s about balance. We know we have got creative players who can create big moments. Paul Pogba’s position today was very good in that position, he’s allowed some freedom. He’s got the foundation behind him. The difference today is we took most of our chances.
“The character showed that they came back and didn’t lose their heads. Maybe five or 10 minutes at the end of the first half we didn’t look great, but we got ourselves together. The two goals are junior, schoolboy errors that shouldn’t happen at this level.”
Manchester United face Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday. United sit pretty in 2nd place in the league and need just a maximum of 5 points in their remaining 5 games to secure a Champions League berth for next season.
They may end up qualifying for the Champions League even if they end up winning the Europa League so you would say that their spot in next season’s premier football club competition is secure.
The Red Devils can dent the hopes of Champions League qualification for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool with a win. Even a draw will make it challenging for the side to qualify for Europe’s elite as Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea have looked good and seem likely to secure the 4th spot as Leicester City have also opened up a slight gap in 3rd place.