Marcus Rashford sends Manchester United into Europa League semi-finals after nail-biting win

Yahoo Sport UK
Marcus Rashford celebrates the winner at Old Trafford
Marcus Rashford celebrates the winner at Old Trafford

Marcus Rashford fired Manchester United into the Europa League semi-finals after a nail-biting victory over Anderlecht.

The Red Devils needed extra time to win the tie 3-2 on aggregate after the Belgians pushed them all the way at Old Trafford.

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United got themselves in front early on through Henrikh Mkhitaryan before the visitors dug in and forced the additional 30 minutes needed to find a winner.

It was a titanic clash that leaves Jose Mourinho’s side shattered going into the final weeks of the season and nursing costly injury blows to Marcos Rojo and more worryingly to Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Mourinho rested big guns Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan in Sunday’s win over Chelsea and restored the pair to the starting XI for this one.

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Manchester United celebrate the opener
Manchester United celebrate the opener

Ander Herrera and David De Gea returned to the bench as the Special One sent out a similar side to the team that drew 1-1 in Brussels last week.

It was an electric start by the hosts and their early pressure yielded a goal inside the opening 10 minutes after a swift break orchestrated by Paul Pogba.

Pogba’s wonderful pass fed Rashford and the speedy young striker found Mkhitaryan at the second attempt before the Armenian fired home.

Things were going smoothly until midway through the first half when Marcos Rojo was left crumpled in a heap after clashing with Alexandru Chipciu.

The Argentina international attempted to carry on before collapsing on the turf and being carried off down the tunnel on a stretcher.

Marcos Rojo goes off injured
Marcos Rojo goes off injured

That was the last thing Mourinho needed with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones already confined to the treatment table.

It was a moment that appeared to unsettle the Red Devils and Anderlecht seized the opportunity to pile forward and force their way back into the tie.

There were a couple of warning signs before the reply did eventually come but United failed to get the message.

Youri Tielemans crashed an effort off the bar via a deflection but the loose ball was never dealt with and Sofiane Hanni took full advantage to equalise.

That sent the sides in level at 2-2 on aggregate at the interval and the Belgians were beginning to believe they could just spring an upset in Manchester.

Luke Shaw, back in the starting XI at the expense of Matteo Darmian, produced some promising runs down the left flank as United went in search of the winner.

Anderlecht celebrate the equalising goal
Anderlecht celebrate the equalising goal

But Anderlecht posed the greater threat in the final third at times and playmaker Tielemans was causing all sorts of problems.

Rashford was the star of the show at the weekend as he terrorised Chelsea’s defenders.

He looked certain to score when he rounded the Anderlecht keeper but he was forced too wide and the angle became too acute to find the net.

They were banging on the door now and when the ball fell kindly to Ibrahimovic, just seven yards out, Old Trafford held its breath.

You would have bet your house on the striker beating Ruben Martinez from that range but he somehow failed to slam the ball home.

Rashford did have the ball in the back of the net with five minutes left on the clock but the linesman’s flag was up to send the match into extra time.

Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic receives medical attention
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic receives medical attention

However, United would have to play the additional 30 minutes without Ibrahimovic after the Swede was carried off with a nasty-looking knee injury.

They nearly re-took the lead in stunning fashion when a Rashford rabona found Pogba and the Frenchman’s overhead kick was cleared off the line.

It was relentess from United and the referee again denied them when Pogba’s strike was chalked off for a foul against Marouane Fellaini in the build-up.

It was third time lucky though as Rashford, who had worked so hard, forced his way through to smash home in the second half of injury time.

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