Manchester United’s semi-final hoodoo should be over – should – after this crushing and slightly surreal victory. They were 2-1 down at the break but then overwhelmed an injury-hit Roma in the second half.
Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani scored two apiece before Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood gave United an unimaginable cushion ahead of the second leg.
United take the lead(9min) with a superb team goal! The move started with a great run from Pogba, who beat three players in a tight area and laid the ball into Cavani. He angled a perfect first-time pass into the path of Fernandes, who flipped the ball gently over Pau Lopez.
United countered and quickly won the ball back with Pogba crashing in a powerful shot from 25 yards that Lopez pushed away one-handed only for the goalkeeper to cry out in pain as he landed heavily on his shoulder.
Lopez wanted to carry on but could not and it meant that within the opening half hour Roma were forced into two substitutions having lost midfielder Jordan Veretout to a hamstring injury in the first five minutes. There would soon be a third casualty but not before Leonardo Spinazzola contributed to the goal.
It was turning into an eventful as well as entertaining contest with referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande then falling onto Dzeko after the striker was fouled by Harry Maguire. But Dzeko soon recovered to give Roma the lead.
It was a goal to equal United’s in its build-up with Spinazzola breaking forward before Mkhitaryan provided a piece of sublime quality as he deftly nut-megged Scott McTominay to pick out the unmarked Pellegrini who crossed low with Dzeko stealing between Maguire and Luke Shaw to bundle the ball home. As fine a goal as it was it was desperately poor defending from United
Remarkably Roma then lost a third player to injury with Spinazzola going off but it was United who had suffered the greater damage.
Even so on half-time they had the opportunity to partly remedy that with Cavani intercepting a terrible cross-field pass by Roger Ibanez and running clear only for substitute goalkeeper Antonio Mirante to block his shot and Smalling to charge down the rebound.
Cavani soon made no mistake. Three minutes into the second-half he collected Pogba’s pass, turned and combined with Fernandes who slipper the ball back to him with Cavani arcing a first-time shot around Mirante and high into the top corner.
A mistake from the substitute goalkeeper Mirante got Cavani a brace. Fernandes stabbed an excellent pass to find Wan-Bissaka in space on the right side of the area. His low shot was pretty tame, but Mirante couldn’t hold it and Cavani, not without glee, helped himself to the rebound.
The penalty awarded against United was harsh then the one given in their favour was even more so with Smalling penalised for challenging Cavani as he attempted to reach Marcus Rashford’s cross. After a VAR check it stood and Fernandes claimed his second goal from the penalty spot.
A corner was played short, Fernandes swung in a cross and Pogba rose unmarked to head home from seven yards. Greenwood finally came on and made his mark as he ran onto Cavani’s clever pass to drive the ball in off Mirante’s boot. United are surely in the final.
This will probably be one of Edinson Cavani’s last appearances for Manchester United before he returns to South America but the 34-year-old was involved in five of the goals that means he may still depart with another trophy in his glittering career.
United will, at the very least, surely reach the Europa League final after this ultimately emphatic victory. Winning it would be a first piece of silverware for them in four years, and a first under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but at half-time it appeared Roma were more likely to make it through.
Then it seemed the story would be about former Manchester players – ex-City striker Edin Dzeko and former United duo Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling – and maybe Solskjaer’s side choking in a fifth semi-final.
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