Manchester United's dominance in this season's UEFA Europa League continued at Old Traffor as they dismantled Paulo Fonseca's AS Roma in the first leg of the semi-final by a scoreline of 6-2.
The Red Devils have won two of their three knockout ties in the competition so far by a scoreline of 4-0 and made light work of the Giallorossi after completing another spectacular comeback after going into half-time trailing 2-1.
The hosts took an early lead after Bruno Fernandes effortlessly lobbed Pau Lopez to cap off a superb team move. Although they looked comfortable in the opening exchanges of the game, their lead lasted for barely six minutes. Paul Pogba conceded a cheap penalty to the visitors, which was dispatched from the spot by Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini.
The equaliser seemed to have jolted the hosts, who watched the visitors take the lead on 33 minutes after a poor piece of defending by Manchester United was capitalised on by Roma. Pellegrini slid the ball to Edin Dzeko, who was waiting inside the box and found the back of the net from close range.
Despite the lead, the Giallorossi were extremely unlucky in terms of their injuries as they were forced into making three changes within the first 45 minutes. It was ultimately of little consequence, however, as the second half completely belonged to Manchester United. They ran Roma ragged and turned the tie around with a spectacular display.
Just three minutes after the restart, Edinson Cavani came up with a sublime finish past substitute Roma goalkeeper Antonio Mirante to equalise for Manchester United. From the 64th minute, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men embarked on a stunning 22-minute blitz that saw them put four goals past Fonseca's side.
Cavani doubled his tally for the night and scored the winner to complete the comeback after Mirante parried a cross from Aaron Wan-Bissaka into the Uruguayan's path. The 34-year-old was then caught by a rash tackle from Chris Smalling, and Fernandes converted the subsequent penalty for his second of the night.
Just four minutes after the fourth goal, Fernandes turned creator as his measured cross into the box was headed in by Pogba for Manchester United's fifth of the night. Mason Greenwood came on for the last 20 minutes or so of the game, and he applied further gloss to the scoreline as the Englishman latched onto an excellent ball from Cavani to dispatch it past Mirante.
Although the second leg is yet to be played in Rome, Manchester United have effectively killed the tie with an absolutely incredible display at Old Trafford, giving them a four-goal cushion to take with them to Italy. They are on the brink of progressing past the semi-final stage for the first time under Solskjaer.
Here, we take a look at some of the best and worst performers on the night as Manchester United thrashed Roma in England.
Hit: Paul Pogba | Manchester United
Paul Pogba was excellent on the night in as he helped Manchester United keep control of proceedings, particularly in the final third. The Frenchman played a huge part in creating the first goal as he ghosted past two onrushing Roma defenders to find Cavani, who then slid the ball to Fernandes.
Even apart from his well-taken goal in the second half, Pogba was one of the best players on the pitch against Roma. He completed more dribbles (four), won more fouls (four), and won more duels (ten) than any other player across both sides during the game.
The only blot on what was a perfect night for 28-year-old was the cheap penalty he conceded to give Roma a way back into the game. However, the away goal is likely to be inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, given the four-goal advantage they hold.
Flop: Bryan Cristante | AS Roma
Although he's a midfielder by trade, Bryan Cristante must be praised for showing enough versatility by stepping into defence, much like he has on a few occasions this season. That being said, at Old Trafford, he was arguably one of the worst players on the night across both sides.
The Italian was poor on the ball, weak in the tackle, and given the high line that Roma held throughout the game, he was very slow in returning to help his defence out. It was a lacklustre display in every way from Cristante, who was nowhere to be seen for most of the goals they conceded on the night.
The 26-year-old also failed to track his runners and could not react in time even when he did, which ensured that Cavani and Fernandes had a field day against the Italians.
Hit: Edinson Cavani | Manchester United
Edinson Cavani has been in fantastic form over the last few weeks and continued his fine run with another sublime display against AS Roma. The Uruguayan popped up with the two most important goals of the night for Manchester United — the equaliser and the winner — and set up the opener for Fernandes.
His movement was too good for Roma's backline to handle, and he stretched their back three time and again during the game. Cavani had one more shot on target (four) than the entire Roma side combined against Manchester United (three), and created three chances for the Red Devils.
Just when it appeared that Manchester United were done for the night and will look to see out the game, Cavani delivered a gorgeous ball to cut through the Giallorossi's backline and found Greenwood, who scored their sixth goal. It was a vintage display from El Matador, who scored his tenth and eleventh career goals against Roma, which is more than any other Italian side he faced.
Flop: Chris Smalling | AS Roma
Chris Smalling's return to Old Trafford was one of the biggest talking points heading into the first leg of this semi-final tie. The 31-year-old spent ten years at Manchester United and played over 300 times for them, but his return to his matchup against his former club was anything but a memorable one for the Englishman.
Smalling had a miserable outing against Manchester United and should have done much better on a number of goals Roma conceded. He got beaten far too easily for the first, was out of position and slow to react for the second, was nowhere near the ball to concede the penalty that led to the fourth, and failed to deal with Fernandes' cross for the fifth.
Overall, he was one of the poorest players for Roma on the night, which says a lot as there aren't too many Giallorossiplayers who could leave Old Trafford with their head held high. A nightmare homecoming for the English defender.
Hit: Bruno Fernandes | Manchester United
Bruno Fernandes has had a fair few memorable displays for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2020, and his performance against Roma was right up there with the very best of them. The Portuguese superstar was simply magnificent and was arguably the best player on the pitch.
Fernandes opened the scoring with a lovely chip past Lopez in the first ten minutes and pulled the strings throughout the game. He set up Cavani for the equaliser on 48 minutes with a well-weighted pass and created Paul Pogba's goal after dispatching his penalty to make it 4-2.
Manchester United's midfield architect created six chances on the night (three big chances), ended the night with two goals, two assists, and one incredible all-round display. He was unplayable in every way, and is potentially set to lead Manchester United to their first final during Solskjaer's reign.