Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rashford makes up for many misses by Reds

Precious away win for Jose as United close in on Europa final date

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring their first goal with Antonio Valencia. Photo: Miguel Vidal/Reuters
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring their first goal with Antonio Valencia. Photo: Miguel Vidal/Reuters

There are moments when you would almost forgive Jose Mourinho his habit of player shaming. It must be fiendishly frustrating to manage these Manchester United players.

It would be interesting to count the number of chances United have missed in the Europa League. They added significantly to the total last night.

Eventually, after a series of near misses and good goalkeeping, Marcus Rashford scored a belter of a free-kick in the 67th minute and Mourinho's leap of delight showed how much he needs to win this competition.

Without this Champions League lifeline, many would be sharpening their knives for the Special One. He requires it so much he is happy to do whatever it takes, including the long-ball game.


From the moment the teams were announced, Mourinho's approach was obvious. Long punts to pin Celta Vigo back and Rashford and Jesse Lingard told to fight for the second ball.

It was a pragmatic approach to a difficulty game and it worked well to kill Celta's thoughts of a high-pressure opening assault on Sergio Romero's goalmouth.

There was only one early sign of trouble ahead. United's defence stood still when Nemanja Radoja launched a cross from the right in the 11th minute which found Daniel Wass who sneaked in at the back and headed hopelessly wide.

It was sloppy defence but Vigo didn't have the wherewithal to create the same situation again until the 59th minute when Sergio Romero saved brilliantly from a deflected Pione Sisto shot.

In between, a series of excellent scoring opportunities and with every miss, Mourinho's frown deepened. Nobody embodied the sense of unfulfilled opportunity more than Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

He may have made the Europa League his mission and scored in the last four away games in the competition but no matter what way you look at him, he's windy.

Oddly enough, Mourinho has never focused his criticism on the Armenian, though he should be a prime target.

He does so much that is good but, more often than not, ruins it with a weak final touch.

A bit like United really. They should have buried this tie before half-time.

Lingard had at least three decent opportunities and if he gave as much attention to his finishing as he clearly does practising diving, his team would be the better for it.

Rashford, more than anyone else apart from Luke Shaw, would have every right to be less than committed to Mourinho but he has a wonderful capacity for absorbing disappointment and coming back with a goal.

He was less guilty than Lingard of squandering chances and was a constant threat down the left as a supplier but when it looked like it was going to be another night of regret for Uniteds strikers, Rashford found a way to score.

He won a free-kick outside the box and right of the Celta Vigo goal.

His curled effort flew by out-of-position keeper Sergio Alvarez, who didn't seem to trust his wall, at full stretch. It was a big, big goal for his boss.

Maybe Mourinho might find it in his heart to throw around a few words of praise.

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