LASK 0-5 Manchester United: Hits and Flops as five-star United cruise to first-leg victory | UEFA Europa League 2019-20
- The players who shone bright and those who flopped in Manchester United's thumping win over LASK in the first leg of their Europa League tie
Manchester United continued their recent impressive run of form with a dominant display away to Austrian outfit LASK in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie in the Europa League, putting five goals without reply past their opponents. Five different scorers found the net for United in a match that was one of several being played behind closed doors due to the Coronavirus threat, giving the former winners of the tournament a healthy lead to take back with them to Manchester.
The hosts, who had lost just once in their last 11 games in all competitions, made four changes for their first-ever game in the last 16 of a major European competition. United also kept up their practice of rotating heavily between the Premier League and the Europa League, making five alterations from a famous win in the Manchester Derby last Sunday. Both sides came into the tie having beaten a group stage opponent of the other side - United bested Club Brugge in the last round while LASK overcome AZ Alkmaar to reach this stage for the first time.
The visitors took charge of the game right from the off, retaining most of the ball and looking threatening going forward. They had more than a few sighters in the opening exchanges, some going wide of the target, others deflected narrowly past the goal, and a couple saved by the goalkeeper before Odion Ighalo broke the deadlock in the 28th minute. Having been picked out on the edge of the box by a clever pass from fellow January signing Bruno Fernandes, the Nigerian juggled the ball before setting himself up to fire a ferocious left-footed effort in off the underside of the bar.
Ighalo’s effort separated both sides at the half time interval, with the hosts enjoying an encouraging spell leading up to the break. They came out with a renewed vigour in the second half and pressed high, but United were equal to their threats and Sergio Romero remained largely untested. Normal service soon resumed just shy of the hour mark, as Ighalo turned provider for Daniel James to score his first for the club since the end of August, a barren run of 33 games. The Nigerian fed a neat through ball to the Wales international, who cut inside before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.
The second goal seemed to give United the confidence to grab more, and they nearly went three to the good barely five minutes later when Ighalo struck the post. Instead, after a spell where neither side really managed an effort of any consequence, a late flurry from the visitors seemingly put the tie to bed.
Brazilian midfielder Fred showed tremendous vision to send Juan Mata through on goal, who calmly slotted home to make it three. In injury time, substitutes Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood combined for the fourth, hitting LASK on the counter with Greenwood running onto Chong’s inch-perfect pass before drilling a low shot past the keeper that went in after striking both posts. The first player born in the 2000s to score for United, Greenwood took his Europa League tally to five, the most for United this season.
There was still enough time for Andreas Pereira to grab a fortuitous fifth, trying his luck from distance following a quickly-taken free-kick and catching the goalkeeper off guard as he couldn’t prevent it from nestling in the far corner.
Here are the hits and flops from a match where the tie is all but decided with the second leg still to play.
5. Hit: Eric Bailly
The Ivorian continues to find his way back into the starting lineup for Manchester United and commanding displays like these will do his chances of selection no harm. Having dealt with a whole spate of injury problems since his move to United, he looks to have put those issues behind him with a trademark all-action display of pace and physicality.
Bailly was continually on the move, running around and snuffing out danger all across United’s half, complementing skipper Harry Maguire well as the Englishman hung back to tidy up the scraps. United’s fans and coaching staff will be heartened to see Bailly throw in some of his typically robust tackles and also to see him shake off a potentially worrying hip injury sustained late in the second half.
4. Flop: Gernot Trauner
Playing in the centre of an injury-hit defence, LASK would have hoped for their skipper to put in a captain’s performance if they were to keep their much-fancied opponents at bay. Instead, Trauner endured a torrid time up against Odion Ighalo, coming off second best in a number of physical battles while also being drawn out of position regularly by the runs of James, Fernandes, and Mata.
Having allowed Ighalo far too much time to bring the ball under control and get the shot off for the first goal and being bypassed far too easily by James for the second, Trauner also stepped up at the inopportune moment as Mata ran in behind to tuck away the third.
3. Hit: Bruno Fernandes
The Austrian side would be sick of the sight of Fernandes, who scored against them for Sporting Lisbon on matchday two of the competition. The Portuguese playmaker has hit the ground running since his move to United and pulled the strings the midfield once again.
Every attack that United mustered seemed to go through Fernandes, and it was he who got the assist for Ighalo’s opener with a deft pass to the frontman. He nearly got a spectacular second after sending Ighalo through on goal with a lovely backheel flick only for the Nigerian’s shot to come back off the post. His impressive showing was rewarded with a well-deserved rest on 78 minutes when he was replaced by Andreas Pereira.
2. Flop: Klauss
The Brazilian striker has been the main source of goals for LASK this season, scoring nine and domestic league and adding three more in the Europa League. However, deployed up top on his own on the night, Klauss struggled against the duo of Maguire and Bailly, who dealt with the threat quite easily.
While United’s attackers made merry at the other end, Klauss cut a frustrated figure as the lone target man with little to no support around him, with one speculative long-range effort being the closest he came to troubling Sergio Romero in the United goal.
1. Hit: Odion Ighalo
Having been subjected to his fair share of scepticism ahead of his loan move to United, Odion Ighalo continued to prove his doubters wrong with yet another goal. The Nigerian frontman seems to score whenever he starts for United, with this being his fourth in three starts for the boyhood United fan.
After opening the scoring just before the half-hour mark with a well-taken volley that gave the opposition keeper no chance, Ighalo also bagged an assist for United’s second with a deft pass. He came close to scoring a second in the second half but was denied by the post and was finally replaced by Mason Greenwood in the 85th minute, who would also go on to score.
Published 13 Mar 2020, 02:35 IST