FRIDAY’S BIG STORIES
Rash, bang, wallop
Crikey, they made it look difficult. Faced with a hard-working but fundamentally mediocre Anderlecht side, Manchester United huffed and puffed, creating chance upon chance but failing to add to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s opener as the 90 minutes ticked by.
Nerves jangled. Zlatan Ibrahimovic compiled a catalogue of misses and stray passes. Marouane Fellaini came on and gave away a few fouls. On the touchline, Jose Mourinho squirmed and laughed pointedly at refereeing decisions. Penalties beckoned.
Thank goodness, then, for Marcus Rashford. The forward came up trumps late in extra-time, capping another lively display with a goal of real quality.
What a talent the 19-year-old is – and what a player he will be if he continues to develop at the current rate. Even stationed out on the left flank, he was United’s most potent threat for much of the match, flying past his full-back time and again. Yes, his finishing was erratic at times, but consistency will come. Certainly, he won’t lack for chances with that knack for making the right run and his searing pace.
Just three matches now stand between the Red Devils and Europa League glory. It wasn’t a night for the ages, but you sense Mourinho, the old grinder supreme, won’t mind that too much. He’ll take a place in next season’s Champions League no matter how it comes.
Counting the cost
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows at the end of the night for United, for they lost two key players with what looked liked nasty injuries. First, Marcos Rojo was forced off on a stretcher after a heavy blow to his right knee, which he probably exacerbated by trying to play on.
Then, in extra-time, Ibrahimovic landed awkwardly after an aerial challenge and appeared to hyperextend his knee. He too needed to be substituted and Mourinho – who is already hampered by a lengthy list of absentees, lest we forget – would be forgiven for fearing the worst.
The Warm-Up went down a Carlos Valderrama rabbit hole this week in the name of research, so it’s only fair that you get to share the fruits of that labour. Here’s the best compilation of El Pibe‘s greatest hits, featuring more brilliant through balls than you can shake a stick at:
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: The Warm-Up: Grinders keepers as Manchester United stumble on in Europe