A late goal denied Man United a win at Anderlecht, in a game where they were comfortable for the majority of the match.
Anderlecht did start brightly, with Frank Acheampong having a couple of efforts blocked. But, apart from that United looked fully focused on the task of putting themselves in a good position to go through to the semi-finals, and another step towards automatic qualification for the Champions League going into the second leg at home next week.
United did nearly go in front, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s shot from point blank range was saved by Martinez in the Anderlecht goal. From the rebound, Jesse Lingard hit the post. That was the closest either team had come to scoring. United were having shots, but they were mostly outside the box and not threatening the opposition, apart from a Marcus Rashford dipping shot from distance which narrowly missed.
United do take the lead in the 36th minute. Antonio Valencia crossed in for Rashford, whose decent shot was spilled out by Martinez, allowing Henrick Mkhitaryan to tap in from a tight angle. It looked an easy chance, but it was tough with the tight angle and it was on his weak foot.
Even though United were looking comfortable, there was always the slight chance that the one goal wasn’t going to be enough. Rashford was always threatening from the left with his pace. But, Ibrahimovic had a poor game, giving away the ball easily and not threatening up front.
But, Rashford got subbed off with fifteen minutes to go and Marouane Fellaini, which lost United the pace on the attack. His goal return has been questioned by Jose Mourinho, but he put in a very good performance in this game.
United should’ve finished the game off in the last 10 minutes, but Paul Pogba shot was saved by the shins of the keeper when one-on-one with him. From the resulting corner, Fellaini headed straight at the goalkeeper. United were always vulnerable to the sucker punch from 21 year old Leander Dendoncker.
And, in the 86th minute, Ivan Obradovic crossed in for Dendoncker, who got ahead of Matteo Darmian to head home with his side’s first effort on target. It was so frustrating for United, who had subdued the hosts until one defensive lapse, which allowed the equaliser.
Mourinho was clearly frustrated with his side’s poor finishing, even though it was a decent performance. It was another poor result away in the Europa League, with poor results against Feyenoord, Fenebahce and Rostov. The complexion of this tie was changed by the the late goal.
Because of United’s position in the league being outside the top four, Mourinho has been forced to take this tournament seriously. They will have to concentrate in the second leg and make sure they get the win and make it through to the next round. But, they will still fancy their chances of making it through.
The second leg is to be played next Thursday, the 20 April. Hopefully United can progress to the next round.