Manchester United progressed to the last 16 of the Europa League after registering a crushing 5-1 victory over Midtjylland at Old Trafford on Thursday, finishing with an aggregate score of 6-3.
The Danish champions defeated the Premier League giants 2-1 in the first leg last week. Louis van Gaal and his men were determined to make it to the next round of the Europe’s second tier club competition.
United suffered a late blow when Anthony Martial was forced to be withdrawn from the starting lineup after he suffered a hamstring injury. Marcus Rashford, who was initially on the bench, was called up to replace the France international just minutes before the kick-off.
As and when the game started, it looked like a regular United match of this season. They dominated the game in the first two quarters and also created chances. Memphis Depay started shooting from outside the box, after cutting inside from the left.
However, United were not able to find the much needed goal to level the aggregate score to 2-2. They suffered a blow in the 27th minute when Pione Sisto – who scored in the first leg – gave Midtjylland a lead at Old Trafford.
Luckily, an own goal from Bulgarian international Nikolay Bodurov gave United the much needed break. They had a chance to level the aggregate score when Ander Herrera was brought down inside the box. Juan Mata’s penalty was saved by the goalkeeper and that could have been vital for the Red Devils just before going into the break.
Rashford, who replaced Martial in the starting lineup was moving out wide in the first half. A word from the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager after the half-time break saw him change his line of attack to through the middle.
The change paid off as the 18-year-old striker scored twice in the space of 12 minutes to help United take the much needed lead. They were handed another penalty in the second half and this time Ander Herrera made no mistake to put the game to bed, before Depay got his name on the scorehseet in the 90th minute to make it 5-1.
Depay has struggled since joining United from PSV Eindhoven last summer. He was crucial in helping his former club win the title last season and against Midtjylland, he showed what he is capable of doing.
The skills, the dribbles, the moves, the passes, the ability to beat the opposition players, put in crosses, taking shots on target from outside the box – Depay’s performance had everything that one would have expected from him.
The two young full-backs Guillermo Varela and Joe Riley were also impressive while going forward and they were a genuine threat to the Danish outfit. An injury hit United were forced to field youngsters in the squad and they showed what they are capable of doing on the pitch. The real test now will be when United face Arsenal in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday.