Quite the week Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have had. The Reds began the week with their emphatic victory at Old Trafford against Chelsea (see last week’s post), then hosted Anderlecht in the second-leg of the Europa League quarterfinal and needed extra time to find the winner, then travelled to Turf Moor to face Burnley, a strong side at home who held United to a 0:0 draw at Old Trafford in October and recorded another League victory there.
United were held to a 1:1 draw in Brussels in the first quarter-final leg, but with the away goal in hand, Anderlecht had to score the goal to force United to respond. Mourinho brought Ibrahimovic back into the XI and started Romero in goal, who’s been the man between the sticks all season in the UEL. Luke Shaw started the second match in a row, in a show of confidence by his boss.
The match started quickly and Mkhitaryan put the hosts ahead in the 10th minute following a brilliant run of play in which Pogba sent Rashford forward with a beautiful through ball whose attempted pass to Ibra was blocked, recovered the blocked pass and found the Armenian unmarked at the edge of the 18 who finished cooly. Marcos Rojo was stretchered off with a knee injury in the 19th minute and was replaced by Daley Blind, severely limiting Mourinho’s central defensive options with Smalling and Jones still out with long-term injuries. United were then pegged-back in the 32nd minute as Anderlecht captain Sofiane Hanni collected a rebound in the box.
The second half was one of frustration for United. Many attempts and no goals. Lingard, Ibrahimovic and substitute Fellaini all saw attempts saved or wide. It looked like one of those nights. In the 90+1 minute, Ibra landed awkwardly and his knee buckled, forcing him off as well. Martial came off to replace the veteran Swede. The match went to extra time and in the first half of AET Anderlecht went close with an attempt from distance but United kept up the pressure as the visitors grew more tired.
It wasn’t until the 107th minute that United got the winner, with Marouaine Fellaini heading down a cross to Marcus Rashford, who drilled it into the back of the net at the Stretford End. A legend in the making. Shaw always played very well, as did Lingard and Pogba, not to mention Eric Bailly, who played 540 minutes in a row. United have advanced into the Europa League semi-final and will face Spanish-side Celta Vigo on 04/11 May, first away, then at Old Trafford.
The next match was away to face Burnley on Sunday 23 April. Prior to the match, we learned that both Rojo and Ibra need surgery and will be out for the rest of the season, with Ibra expected to be out until early 2018. The players wore t-shirts with the names of the injured pair in the warm-up to inspire them to victory. Jose started Martial in the no 9 role and Wayne Rooney was back in the XI and wore the armband, playing as a left-winger. Pogba, Herrera and Fellaini started, as did Young and Blind with De Gea in net.
Anthony Martial opened the scoring with a powerful run and interchange with Herrera and shined throughout the match. Wayne Rooney doubled the lead at the 39th minute finishing a deflected effort by Martial just outside the six-yard box. Burnley never really threatened in the match, though Pogba had two near-goals from distance and Rashford, rested and brought on as a substitute, had a close effort as well. The Frenchman came off at the 90th minute and was replaced by Carrick, with concern that he may have picked up a knock. Mourinho had no information on Pogba but we’re expected to find out more in his pre-match on Wednesday.
The 0:2 win, coupled with Liverpool’s loss, puts United just one behind Manchester City, who they play in the derby on Thursday. A victory then would see Mourinho’s men jump into a Champions League spot in 4th and only one point off third, with the Europa League still to play for. It’s a great situation to be in.
As mentioned above, United go across the city to face fourth-placed Manchester City at the Etihad on Thursday 27 April and then host Swansea City at Old Trafford on Sunday 30 April at 12.00 BST. It’s a big week with the chance to get into a Champions League spot in the Premier League before the Europa League semi-final first-leg in Spain next week. Glory, glory Man United!