Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes

Talking Points: United 6 Roma 2

Manchester United produced an incredible second-half turnaround in our Europa League semi-final, first leg against Roma as the Reds took a giant step towards the final in Gdansk.

We found ourselves 2-1 down at the break, but United fired five second-half goals to turn the tie hugely in our favour on a memorable Old Trafford night.

Here are the major talking points...

SECOND-HALF TURNAROUND

Talk about a turnaround! United had started the game in fine fettle and were ahead after just nine minutes, but two Roma goals within 33 minutes left us a tad despondent as the half-time whistle blew. Ole and his players have suffered much semi-final heartbreak in the last year or so and the Reds weren’t about to let this tie get away from us. Cue a brilliant second-half display which turned the game and tie on its head with five goals after the break and one foot in the final in Gdansk.

BRUNO ON THE MARK

Bruno made it 26 goals for the campaign and what a fine team move and finish it was. Just nine minutes in, a strong run and lovely pass from Paul Pogba found Edinson Cavani who slotted Fernandes through on goal superbly. Our Portuguese magnifico beautifully flicked the ball home to further cement his spot as our top scorer for the season. He then returned the favour to Cavani three minutes after the restart for our no.7 to finish with aplomb, before scoring a superb penalty and then curling a beautiful cross in for Pogba for our fifth. Indeed, Fernandes is the first player to score at least nine European goals for the Reds in a single season since Ruud van Nistelrooy (14 in 2002/03).

EDI ON A ROLL AGAINST ROMA

Edinson Cavani’s second-half goals were his 9th and 10th in 13 appearances against Italian clubs and his fifth and sixth strikes in his last four Europa League games. Indeed, the Uruguayan has netted more goals against Roma than any other Italian club.

EVENTFUL NIGHT FOR PAUL

Paul Pogba’s involvement in our first goal was superb – a brilliant turn and pass into Cavani led to Fernandes turning the ball in. The midfielder then suffered huge disappointment when he was penalised for handball leading to what you worried would be a key away goal. Paul more than made up for that frustration with an excellent header to net our fifth goal at the Stretford End. And you could see what it meant to him.

EURO RECORD FOR RASHFORD

In starting against Roma, Marcus Rashford has become United’s youngest-ever player to reach 50 European appearances. At 23 years and 180 days, our no.10 overtakes Wayne Rooney who had initially held the record aged 23 years and 341 days. Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Martial and David Beckham make up the rest of that top five of youngest players to reach the landmark.

A landmark for Marcus Rashford.

FAMILIAR FACES BACK AT OT

We faced former Red Zlatan Ibrahimovic in our last 16 tie against AC Milan and two more winners of the Europa League with United back in 2017 were back to take us on in our last-four tie against Roma – Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Smalling, 31, spent 10 years at Old Trafford, although his final season was spent on loan in Rome before he sealed a permanent switch last October. Mkhitaryan was a Red for 18 months but left in 2018 to join Arsenal before following in Smalling’s steps and joining Roma permanently after a successful loan spell.

ROMA INJURIES

While it was a memorable first-half for the visitors in terms of goals, it was one to forget for injuries. The Giallorossi lost three key players in the space of 32 minutes with injury problems and it will be interesting to see whether all three will be fit enough for the second leg a week tonight. After just five minutes former Aston Villa midfielder Jordan Veretout pulled up while trying to escape the attentions of Luke Shaw and was replaced by Gonzalo Villar. Goalkeeper Pau Lopez was next to leave the action, on 28 minutes, after damaging his shoulder, leading to the introduction of 37-year-old second-choice stopper Antonio Mirante. Defender Leonardo Spinazzola then made his way off after 37 minutes, with Bruno Peres coming on. After not making any more changes at the break, that was the last change the visitors could make due to the rules stating you could only make subs in three blocks, as well as at half-time.

RETURN TO ROME

The Reds head to the Italian capital next Thursday in our second-leg clash. United are well in control of the tie after a superb second-half performance and the players will know the Europa League final is now in touching distance, but a professional job will still need to follow at Stadio Olimpico to make doubly sure we’re in Poland on 26 May, a date of course extremely synonymous with United and our manager.

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