A wonderful Marcus Rashford free-kick gave Man United a valuable lead going into the second leg at Old Trafford.
United dominated throughout and fully deserved the win but, they could’ve been more goals ahead with the amount of chances that they missed. In the first half, they were thwarted several times in the first half by an inspired Sergio Alvarez in the Celta Vigo.
Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Henrick Mkhitaryan all spurned very good chances, which were saved by Alvarez. Rashford’ said shot was heading for the top corner but for Alvarez, with Alvarez also thwarting a surging Mkhitaryan and pushing away a Lingard prod from eight yards out.
Mkhitaryan could’ve had a penalty, but the ref didn’t give it because he didn’t go down. This further underlines the fact that referee’s don’t give penalties unless you go down, even though the foul disrupts their run.
In the second half, even though United were dominating, there was still the threat of Celta Vigo scoring. They did nearly score through Pione Sisto, whose shot was well saved by Sergio Romero. Romero’s been playing pretty much every game in the Europa League this season. Celta had some efforts in the first half but, Daniel Wass missed a couple of chances.
The breakthrough came in the 67th minute through Rashford. Hugo Mallo fouled Rashford outside the box. He fired spectacularly into the far left corner, after Daley Blind had made a decoy run. Alvarez had finally been beaten in the Celta goal with a piece of excellence from the youngster.
That goal puts United as strong favourites to progress to the final in Stockholm against either Ajax or Lyon. It is a competition that they have never won. Rashford had scored the extra-time winner in the previous round and in this game he scored the goal to put United in firm control.
This was a game where some of the United players who had been injured were back in the squad. With Eric Bailly limping out of the game against Swansea on Sunday, United looked to be short of players at the back, with Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo also on the sidelines. Luke Shaw was also injured in that game.
But, Bailly was fit enough to start in this game, alongside Paul Pogba, who had recovered from a muscle strain. Also, Smalling, who has been out since March 19, was on the bench. Even though a couple of players had returned, another player got injured, with Ashley Young having to go off only 11 minutes after coming on as a substiute.
This was United’s 58th game of this season. They could play six more matches if they make it all the way to Stockholm, and they may have to get there if they want to make next season’s Champions League. They are outside the Premier League’s top four at the moment, a point behind fourth-placed Manchester City and four off third-placed Liverpool.
After this game it doesn’t look like it will be much of a challenge to reach the final, with Celta reflecting their 11th place in La Liga. The second leg is Thursday, the 11 May.
Next up in the league is a trip to Arsenal on Sunday, the 7 May. They must win if they want any chance of making to top four.