Manchester United secured a fantastic 6-2 over AS Roma in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final at Old Trafford. Braces from Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes along with goals from Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba overcame goals from Pellegrini and Dzeko. Manchester United and Roma played out a topsy turvy game which resulted in five goals in the second half.
Starting XI- All Business
Ole’s lineup was a statement of intent on how important this fixture was to him. David de Gea was handed the goalkeeper’s spot with a back-4 of Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw, and Wan-Bissaka. Fred and McTominay were the holding midfielders in a defensive lineup. Bruno, Pogba, and Rashford were in the attack behind Edinson Cavani. Donny van de Beek, Telles, Greenwood, Matic, and Mata were among those on the bench.
First Half- Bruno Draws First Blood but United Struggle
Manchester United started the game on the front foot as they attacked the opposition half with immense confidence. It did not take long as United took the lead in the 9th minute. A brilliant turn from Pogba followed by a beautiful touch-on by Cavani allowed Bruno to sprint into the box and chip it over Roma’s Pau Lopez. A fantastic start from United in the semi-final as they rushed to an early lead. Unfortunately, Roma stormed back into the tie minutes later. In the 12th minute, Paul Pogba slid into a challenge and handled the ball. Although the handball wasn’t intentional, his arms were in an unnatural position thereby prompting a penalty. Roma’s Pelligrini stepped up and fired the ball home to make it 1-1.
Both sides dueled to get the upper hand but in the 33rd minute, Roma went ahead after a good string of passing on the left. Old Manchester City boy Edin Dzeko scored a tap-in after a good counterattack by the Italian side. United trailed 2-1 and were staring down the barrel at yet another semi-final exit. In the dying moments of the first half, Roma gifted Edinson Cavani with a golden chance to equalize. Unfortunately the Urguayan veteran was unable to get his shot past Roma’s goalkeeper. At half time, United looked glum and slow but knew that they could wear Roma down and get back in the game.
Second Half- The Edinson Cavani Show
Roma looked dangerous for the opening minutes of the second half. They were soon dealt a might blow thanks to Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani. In the 48th minute, Bruno played a superb pass into Cavani’s path in the box and the striker fired a rocket into the top corner from thirteen feet out making it 2-2. Roma did not see what hit them as Pogba, Bruno, and Cavani switched to God Mode. Soon after, the trio showed absolutely no mercy as the onslaught of goals began.
In the 64th minute, Pogba picked up the ball on the edge of the box and played it quickly towards Bruno. The Portuguese starman spotted Wan-Bissaka in the box and played a beautiful pass towards the wing-back. Roma’s keeper palmed away Wan-Bissaka’s low shot. And as always- right place at the right time- Edinson Cavani gladly accepted this gift and fired in the rebound to complete the turnaround and make it 3-2!
On the other end, Roma had a couple of chances thanks to Mkhitaryan and Dzeko. Luckily, United’s defense was resolute and ready. United looked better and better as minutes went by as Roma looked clueless. In the 69th minute, a rash sliding challenge from Chris Smalling on Edinson Cavani gave United a penalty. Up stepped Bruno Fernandes, and fired it home without a sweat! 4-2, advantage United! Every few minutes, United would easily sprint into the opponent’s box and a goal seemed inevitable. Edinson Cavani had an excellent chance but his shot was blocked after a wonderful sliding effort from Villar.
Bruno and Cavani On the Money
The hosts eventually did find the fifth goal through Paul Pogba off a corner. Luke Shaw took a short corner, playing the ball back towards Bruno. The midfielder played a curling first-time cross towards the center of the box where Paul Pogba met the ball and headed it into the far corner. 5-2, no way back for Roma!! Mason Greenwood came on after the fifth goal to replace Rashford. Marcus could really need some rest as he nurses a foot problem without getting any days off. Edinson Cavani had another golden chance to complete the hattrick when bruno played a pinpointed flighted pass to the veteran. Unfortunately his spectacular effort was saved comfortably. Roma looked down and out as they could not keep up with United’s movement and passing. Nemanja Matic came on to replace Fred as Ole looked to close the door and see the game out.
Although Edinson Cavani was unable to get his hattrick of goals today, he did get another assist in the 86th minute. Bruno played an acrobatic pass to Cavani, who released Mason Greenwood with a glorious outside-of-the-boot pass. The young academy product sprinted towards goal and promptly fired the ball into the far corner to make it 6-2 and effectively end the tie. Ole looked jubilant as his gamble of not making changes at halftime paid off. He brought on Juan Mata for the final minutes, replacing Bruno Fernandes. The hosts saw out a dominant victory and will feel confident about their chances to make the final in Gdansk.
Full-Time Thoughts- Dominant Performance
Manchester United fans will take immense joy in watching their team thrash their semi-final opponents in a topsy-turvy game. Despite conceding twice in the first half, the Red Devils scaled a magnificent second-half comeback to put the tie beyond AS Roma. The defense made some errors in the first half but did their jobs admirably in the second. Pogba, Bruno, and Cavani earned every penny of their wages in today’s match as they absolutely wrecked Roma’s defense. A superb performance from the trio who carried this team on their backs and have done so multiple times this season.
While there is still doubt on Cavani’s future at Old Trafford, the club should give him whatever he may want to get him to stay. I normally fault Ole for not making changes and taking too long to switch things up, today he deserves full credit for sticking by his players and trusting them to do the job he needed them to do. A brilliant performance that will give United tremendous confidence going into their reverse fixture against Roma and the last few games of the season.