LASK Linz 0-5 Manchester United: 5 Talking Points from the game as Red Devils dismantle Austrian leaders | Europa League 2019-20
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men ran riot in Austria and registered an emphatic victory.
In light of the rapid spread of the deadly coronavirus, the decision was taken to play the match without spectators and the visitors took advantage of the lack of atmosphere, pressing home their advantage from kickoff and were good value for their half-time lead.
Having pressed and probed in vain for the first 25 minutes, the Red Devils broke the deadlock emphatically, with Odion Ighalo receiving a clever pass from Bruno Fernandes before juggling the ball with both feet four times to set what was an absolute piledriver into the top corner with a left-footed strike.
That was enough to give Manchester United a half-time lead and they raised the bar in the second half, with goals from Daniel James, Juan Mata, Mason Greenwood, and Andreas Pereira completing the rout in Austria.
The result all but guarantees Manchester United's participation in the quarterfinal of the competition and here, we highlight five talking points from the fixture.
5. LASK failed to offer much of a threat
When the draws were made for the Europa League, it was largely expected that Manchester United would qualify for the next round. Despite the superior pedigree and quality of their opponents, LASK were expected to put up a challenge, especially at home where a positive result would have put them in good stead heading into the return leg at Old Trafford.
However, this failed to happen and the hosts were outplayed on their own turf, with Manchester United dominating proceedings from start to finish.
They failed to register a shot on target across the 90 minutes which was disappointing considering that they have scored 27 goals from just 11 matches at home in their domestic league but perhaps this was down to the absence of the backing of their fans
LASK impressively topped a group also containing sides with pedigree like Sporting Lisbon and PSV Eindhoven while dispatching AZ Alkmaar in the last round. Given that they currently lead the way in the Austrian Bundesliga, it was rather disappointing that they failed to offer a genuine threat to Manchester United.
4. Bruno Fernandes continues to prove value
Since his winter transfer from Sporting Lisbon, Bruno Fernandes has proved to be one of the most astute Manchester United buys in recent years and it should come as no surprise that his arrival has coincided with an upturn in results at the club.
The Portuguese international was recently awarded as the PFA Player of the Month in February which is pretty remarkable considering that he has spent just two months in the English top-flight. Against LASK, Fernandes started as the furthest of the three midfielders, occupying the hole behind Odion Ighalo and it was from this position that the 25-year-old starred, controlling the tempo of the game with his pristine passing.
He provided the assist for Ighalo's opener with an exquisite pass with the outside of his right foot and this was his 4th assist of the season and 7th goal involvement from just nine matches. He starred for 78 minutes in the clash before making way for Andreas Pereira to a warm reception for the bench.
3. Fine run of form continues under Solskjaer
Things have not panned out positively for Manchester United since the permanent appointment of Ole Gunner Solsksjaer last March and this season has been especially poor, with sub-par results leading to calls for the termination of the manager's contract.
A particular theme from earlier in the campaign was the regularity with which the Red Devils posted positive results against the bigger sides, while also struggling against the bottom teams and this Jekyll and Hyde trait was particularly frustrating for fans.
However, things have significantly improved since United suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Burnley in January and they are currently on a run of 11 games without defeat in all competitions. Most impressively, nine clean sheets have been recorded in this run, while 29 goals have been scored, with victories recorded in four different competitions.
While LASK might not be the biggest of opponents, some months ago, Manchester United would not have won this match with such conviction and if they can keep this momentum going, there could be no stopping them for the rest of the season.
2. Unlikely goalscorers for Manchester United
It would have been very pleasing for fans of Manchester United that all five goals against LASK were scored by different players. What's even more joyous would be the fact that three of those are not exactly famed for finding the back of the net with regularly.
Daniel James grabbed the second of the night after he was played in by Odion Ighalo as he dribbled past Gernot Trauner before picking the bottom-left corner from the edge of the box.
This was his first goal since August, ending a run of 2,527 minutes without a goal in all competitions and Juan Mata soon made it three with an exquisite finish from Fred's even better through-ball. Andreas Pereira put the icing on the cake with his strike from 25 yards.
Heading into this game, the three men had managed just six goals in 102 matches in all competitions and having all found the back of the net, fans of the club would hope that they can do so on a more consistent basis.
1. Odion Ighalo proving to be a hit
When Odion Ighalo was signed on deadline day of the January transfer window, he was not the marquee arrival many expected and the fact that he was brought in on loan from a Chinese club was given by many that the club had lost its appeal to attract top players.
However, the Nigerian stated that the opinions of detractors was not his concern and that he was at Old Trafford to fulfil his childhood dream and contribute to the team's cause and he has sublimely done that.
Having impacted in his brief cameo off the bench against Manchester City, the former Watford man was charged with leading the line against LASK and he starred in this role, opening the scoring with a sublime left-footed strike that was more deserving of a gasp by a full stadium than the few rounds of applause it got.
The 30-year-old turned provider in the second half, laying the assist for Daniel James to score the second and was denied a brace by the upright before departing the field for Mason Greenwood in the 85th minute.
Published 13 Mar 2020, 03:47 IST