FootballManchester United

Breaking the semi-final hex

Man United advance to the Europa League Final despite losing 3-2 against Roma

Table of Contents

Moving on

For a team with the stature of Manchester United, going without a trophy even one season seems like an eternity.

Ole Gunnar Solkjaer’s men are a step away from ending their drought of going without a trophy in three successive seasons.

 Despite losing 3-2 to Roma on Thursday, the Reds advanced to the Europa League final, 8-5 on aggregate.

The Italians got second-half goals from Edin Dzeko, Bryan Cristanta, and Nicola Zalewski, which cancelled out the pair of goals from Edinson Cavani.

The Reds are through to their first Europa League final since 2016-17.

Game Story

Roma came into the second leg of this tie, knowing they had to score early and often to have any shot at advancing.

So, it was no surprise to see I Giallorossi eager to attack from the start.

A free-kick from Lorenzo Pellegrini was played through nicely to Gianluca Mancini, who fired a close-range effort that David de Gea alertly flicked away to safety.

Two minutes later, they had another opportunity as former United defender Chris Smalling got a flick on the Pellegrini corner, sending it towards the back post where Henrikh Mkhitaryan headed it into the side netting.

After 10 minutes under siege, the Reds came alive, nearly breaking the deadlock in the 20th minute.

A delicate pass over the top from Fred put Cavani clean in on goal as the Uruguayan tried to lob the keeper, but Antonio Mirante came out and got the angle just right as the chip struck the crossbar.

Mirante kept the match scoreless eight minutes later after Bruno Fernandes slipped Cavani through again, but the former record goalscorer at PSG saw his effort stopped from close range.

Six minutes before injury time in the first half and Cavani finally got it right.

Fred once again played a nice through ball to the veteran striker on the counter-attack as his long-range effort from about 20 yards out went through Mirante and in the net.

Roma pushed hard to get back in the game in the second half, and their pressure paid off in the 57th minute.

Bruno Peres swung in an excellent cross to the back post for Edin Dzeko.

The former City attacker nodded his header from close range into the empty net to draw the Italians level.

The Romans kept pressing and went ahead on the hour mark.

Pellegrini did well to take the ball off Fred on the edge of the United box as the ball bounced to Bryan Cristante, who fired a crisp 20-yard strike across de Gea and into the far corner.

Roma grew in confidence as the United keeper was forced into action a few more times.

Edin Dzeko found himself with a chance from close range, but de Gea made a brilliant save and stopped Pedro’s rebound.

In the 62nd minute, Roma had another chance to reduce their deficit as Peres slammed a low cross towards Mkhitaryan, who flicked it towards goal but de Gea again reacted quickly and saved the day.

Those saves would prove vital as the Reds drew level in the 68th minute.

Bruno Fernandes threaded a lovely cross from deep towards Cavani.

El Matador timed his run perfectly, powering his header from eight yards out into the ground and past Mirante.

Roma retook the lead seven minutes from the end.

A lovely cross from Davide Santon at the back post found substitute Nicola Zalewski.

He slammed a first-time volley which took a wicked deflection off Alex Telles and squirmed through de Gea’s legs.

That goal was enough to earn the Italians the victory, but, in the tie, overall, it was far too little and far too late.

Man of the Match

David de Gea may not be the first-choice keeper much longer, but he proved tonight he’s still at the top of his game.

He knew Roma would have a big push given their first-leg deficit.

Despite conceding three goals, the Spaniard was brilliant.

The Reds keeper kept the match scoreless with some brilliant saves in the first 10 minutes.

After Roma took a 2-1 lead de Gea was incredibly sharp.

He made several brilliant saves from close range to ensure United didn’t fall further behind.

The aggregate score could have been a lot tighter if not for the heroics of de Gea.

The Spaniard made 10 saves on the night.

Playing a starring role

Since transferring from PSG, Edinson Cavani has been used primarily as a substitute.

When thrust into the starting role in this pivotal semi-final, El Matador shone perhaps brighter than any United star.

He had both goals tonight to go along with the two he scored in the opening leg.

He’s got 15 goals in his last 15 Europa League fixtures.

Stepping Away

It was announced this week that Jose Mourinho would replace Paulo Fonseca as Roma manager.

With Fonseca on his way out soon his side came through for him tonight.

If not for the splendid goalkeeping of David de Gea, they could have made things very interesting.

Despite their elimination, Roma still broke a 13-match losing run against English opponents.

They also defeated an English side for the first time since 2001.

Big Score

Man United have been blowing away the competition since moving into the Europa League.

The Reds are only the second team in the history of the UEFA Cup/ Europa League to score eight goals in both legs of a semi-final.

Alaves was able to accomplish that against Kaiserslautern in 2000-01.

The 13 goals scored between both sides in this tie is the biggest tally in the history of this tournament.

It’s also the joint second-highest across two legs of any major UEFA competition semi-final.

Who’s next

For Man United to capture the trophy, they’ll have to get through Villareal.

The Spanish side drew 0-0 with Arsenal today.

That was enough to put them through after winning the opening match 2-1.

The final will take place at Stadion Energa Gdansk in Poland on May 26.

Managers Words

After the match United boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described what advancing to the final means to him.

“It feels good, of course. We played one very, very good half at Old Trafford, which has brought us through, and today we did the job. Disappointed that we lost the game, I never like to lose a game, especially the way we did, but it was always going to be one of these games that was going to be open. Chances for both teams easily could have been 6-6 or 8-6 for them, so a strange game of football.”

Next Up

United is back to Premier League action on Sunday as they face Aston Villa.

The kickoff from Villa Park will be at 2:05 pm. (JSL).

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