United are favourites for Europa League but slipped in the quarter-final first leg by allowing Belgian side back into match late on
MANCHESTER UNITED could not take advantage in the Europa League quarter-final first leg after Leander Dendoncker’s late header saw them draw 1-1 in Belgium.
The Red Devils, unbeaten in six in Europe, started well and seemed to be able to cope with everything Anderlecht threw at them.
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Jesse Lingard hit the post, before on 36 minutes Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave United the lead – and a vital away goal – turning home the rebound after Marcus Rashford’s shot was saved.
And despite Anderlecht looking brighter after the break, Mkhitaryan nearly made it two on 55 minutes, sweeping Matteo Darmian’s pinpoint cross just wide on the volley.
Paul Pogba, goalless in 13 matches and desperate to find the back of the net, was played through on 82 minutes by Ibrahimovic, who fired straight at goalkeeper Ruben.
But all of United’s hard work at keeping Anderlecht at bay was in vain after 85 minutes when Leander Dendoncker fired a wonderful header beyond Sergio Romero.
FACTS, STATS, GOALS AND LOLS
- TOP SCORER Lukasz Teodorczyk could only make the Anderlecht bench with a shoulder problem – good news for United as the Poland striker has 20 league goals and five in the Europa League this season.
- JOSE MOURINHO saw at first hand why Youri Tielmans is one of the hottest young properties in Europe with Spurs, Liverpool and Everton chasing him like the Old Trafford boss.
- PAUL POGBA knows the feeling only too well having hit woodwork eleven times this season – just as Jesse Lingard did in the 17th minute.
- THE ANDERLECHT fans had their very own cheerleader – a man with a megaphone who stood on a platform leading the choruses.
- MICHAEL CARRICK wore the captain’s arm band in the continued absence of Wayne Rooney – has the Old Trafford club skipper already played his last game in Europe for the club?
- ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC doesn’t do second class competitions, saying before the Anderlecht clash: “The Europa League became the Champions League since I put my foot there.”
- HENRIKH MKHITARYAN was deployed in an interesting new role against the Belgians, playing as a No 10 instead of right side midfield– and capitalised with 37th minute tap – in for his fourth in four away Europa games.
- ANOTHER ASSIST for Ibrahimovic who has now had a hand in nine Europa League goals this season– scoring five – more than any player left in the competition.
- NICOLAE STANCLU at £8M most expensive player in Belgian history didn’t look half bad doing midfield battle with Paul Pogba who cost ever eleven times more.
- ANTONIO VALENCIA cruised through the game and surely has to be one of the most under – rated right backs on the continent – not just in the Premier League.
- UNITED’S ability to not close games out told again, as Paul Pogba’s miss was punished by Lenader Dendoncker’s late header. Why can’t they finish games off?
United’s Next Five Fixtures
16 Apr: Chelsea (H), PL
20 Apr: Anderlecht (H), Europa
23 Apr: Burnley (A), PL
27 Apr: Manchester City (A), PL
30 Apr: Swansea (H), PL
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
Man Utd: Romero 5, Valencia 7, Bailly 6, Rojo 6, Darmian 7, Carrick 7, Pogba 7, Mkhitaryan 8 (Fosu-Mensah 5), Lingard 6 (Martial 6), Rashford 7 (Fellaini 6), Ibrahimovic 7
Subs: de Gea, Blind, Ander Herrera, Shaw
Yellow card: Carrick, Mkhitaryan, Fosu-Mensah
Goal: Mkhitaryan (36)
STAR MAN: HENRIKH MKHITARYAN, 8
WHAT THEY SAID
Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick on BT Sport: “It’s frustrating. We were so in control but got sloppy, we have to kill teams off. We should have won that game.
“They had one chance and scored a header. We need to be more ruthless, it’s as simple as that. We were too comfortable. We got sloppy.
“It’s not the end of the world but we are better than that. It’s that little edge that makes the difference in the end, but we’ll look forward to the next game.”