Manchester United vs Roma 5 Things We Learned

Manchester United produced a scintillating second half performance to turn the tie around against Roma with five second half goals. The Reds will travel to Rome next week with a four-goal lead, as it seems United already have one foot in Gdansk. So, let’s look at five things we learnt from the first leg of this semi-final.

Cavani with an acrobatic effort tries to seal his hattrick
Credit: BBC Sport

Comeback kings against Roma!

The Manchester-based club came out flying from the first whistle but were hit hard by the harsh penalty call. From that point on in the first half the Italian club were completely on top.

The second half began and United were zipping the ball around with much more urgency. Coinciding with this was the intense press, which was not in action in the first half. Immediately, the Red Devils got their reward from their high press. Pogba found Fernandes who found Cavani, who effortlessly put it away.

A small but notable change was the full backs pushing up much higher, in which they were told to stay high and wide. This was particularly effective during the third goal, which came from Wan-Bissaka’s attacking position. From that point on Manchester United were a completely different animal. Roma went deeper and deeper, as the waves of United attacks became more persistent. Being able to come back from a goal down is a massive asset to have and Solskjaer’s men seem to have it in their identity.

Cavani’s best performance in Red?

Edison Cavani was a signing, which brought a lot of controversy during the summer window. Fast forward to the present day and Cavani appears to be one of the bargains of the season. The Uruguayan has had a major impact on United’s season and it is imperative that Solskjaer convinces the striker to stay for another year.

The lethal striker was lively from the off in this European contest. Cavani, who is typically the scorer, became provider for Bruno Fernandes who put the Reds ahead. Realistically, Cavani should have got his first goal of the night in the first half. He got on the receiving end of a misplaced pass but could not find the back of the net.

Like the whole team, Cavani put in a much better showing in the second half. United’s number seven got the Red Devils back on level terms with a rocket of a shot. The roles reversed as Bruno played in Cavani in a great team-goal. Edison’s second of the night was a goal that all United fans will associate with him. A rebound goal, in which he was in the right place at the right time.

 Cavani then won a penalty with his excellent movement. Although, it was a dubious decision United got the penalty and Fernandes put it away like normal. Furthermore, he then put the ball on a plate for Mason Greenwood with what was probably the pass of the night. The Englishman put it away and Manchester United were 6-2 up. Edison Cavani’s performance in this half was nothing short of breathtaking and alongside Fernandes and Pogba, he was a candidate for man of the match.

Defensive troubles persist vs Roma

Despite all the praise that will be heading in the direction of Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there were still some alarming worries that would have caught the attention of the United boss. Firstly, the Norwegian manager saw his side give up a lead with two very avoidable goals. The first one being a penalty, which was a harsh call. However, the lack of pressure and defensive awareness in the build up to the penalty incident would again be alarming. A re-occurring issue again seems to be Victor Lindelöf in aerial situations. Edin Dzeko, the former Manchester City man, got the better of him all night.

 For the second goal United were cut open and it all began from a horrific throw in from Wan-Bissaka. After that, Aaron Wan-Bissaka did not recover in time and Mctominay had to fill in the gap in the defensive line. Former United man Henrik Mkhitaryan came back to haunt his old club. The Armenian put a superb through ball to the first goal scorer Pellegrini, who was in acres of space. Lorenzo Pellegrini put the ball on a plate for Dzeko who was never going to miss from a few yards out.

The in-form Luke Shaw was also at fault for this goal as he was the man playing Pellegrini onside. Fred should have also been looking over his shoulder for runners and overall there were many mistakes in the build up to the goal. The second half performance was much better in the defensive sense, however there were still far too many mistakes. This defensive performance has made it even more important that United bring in defensive additions in the summer.

Midfield magic makes the difference vs Roma

When Fernandes first came to United it was said that the Portuguese man would not be able to fit alongside Pogba. This game was a true example that they are a deadly duo when in the same team together. When, both playmakers start games for Manchester United they create chance after chance for the forward line. Pogba has excellent vision along with pace and strength, while Bruno has sublime off the ball movement and composure in front of goal.

Pogba took on three Roma defenders, in which his fancy footwork and strength were on show before finding Cavani. The “Portuguese magnifico” then got himself on the scoresheet with a delightful chip. Throughout the first half the pair were a joy to behold, in which they set up attacks with ease.

Both Pogba and Fernandes came to life more in the second half, due to improvements from Fred and Scott Mctominay. The two holding midfielders did not really supply the front line that well in the first half. However, after the break the pair made it their top priority to give it to Pogba and Fernandes more. Fernandes was in action for the first two goals after the break. The Portugal international set up Cavani with the perfect pass and then found Wan-Bissaka in the build up to United’s third. As, usual Bruno put his penalty away and moments after, the Fernandes-Pogba combination came to life. Fernandes got the ball on the edge of the box and put in an inviting ball into the penalty area. Pogba used his aerial prowess to rise highest and put Manchester United 5-2 up. This piece of magic put the tie to bed.

Semi final curse comes to a end

This was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fifth semi-final since he became the manager of the Red Devils. All the other semi-finals had disappointing outcomes. Some of the semi-final defeats were slightly unlucky whereas some were matches where United were outplayed. Last year, United fell at this stage in the Europa League. United went out to eventual winners Seville in a game where they should have won. Before, this tie Solskjaer would have made it clear to his players that it is vital for them to reach the final and to not repeat the same mistakes from the past.

Manchester United fans thought the semi-final curse was set to continue when Roma got their two away goals. But the semi-final curse looks like it’s come to an end in some style. The Red Devils are the first side to net six in a major European semi-final since Real Madrid did in 1964. After, an incredible second half performance, Manchester United are halfway there to reaching the final. The end goal doesn’t stop there, as it’s imperative that Solskjaer’s men get their hands on silverware.

Author: Rajan Sangha

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