Things we learned from Moldova

Thursday 15 September 2022 19:40

Manchester United got our first points on the board in this season's Europa League with a convincing 2-0 victory over Sheriff Tiraspol.

Jadon Sancho expertly converted a fine pass by Christian Eriksen in the 17th minute, and was inches away from adding to his tally before Cristiano Ronaldo provided some breathing space with a penalty, six minutes before the break.

From the press box at the Zimbru Stadium, we provide these talking points from the action in Moldova...

Report: Sheriff 0 United 2


The Reds claim our first Europa League success of the season, as we comfortably see off the Moldovan champions.


From virtually the first whistle, Raphael Varane looked a pillar of strength at the heart of the defence. The France international was restored to the line-up after missing the defeat to Real Sociedad and oozed composure when faced with a fast start by the hosts. When winning a couple of headers in the air, he helped ease any pressure and simply looked the class act that we all know he is. He was ably supported by Lisandro Martinez, who was extremely efficient in everything he did and defended on the front foot throughout. The pair provided the base that the victory was built upon.


This was the third time Sancho opened the scoring in a game this term, coming on the back of a fine pre-season showing, and his accurate low finish supplied further evidence of his ability. Only a desperate goalline clearance by Stjepan Radeljic denied him what looked a certain second, and he grew in influence in the first half. It came on the day he was not named in the England squad, which seems particularly unlucky on his part. The wide-man also raised a shinpad given to him by a young fan to mark his goal.


It was always only going to be a matter of time before Cristiano scored his first goal of the season. Our no.7 had a header disallowed in the defeat to Real Sociedad and, after missing much of pre-season due to personal reasons, it was perhaps expected he would take time to get fully into his stride in 2022/23. When Diogo Dalot was fouled in the area, he stepped up to smash the ball past Maxym Koval and celebrated in typical fashion. It was notable how joyous his team-mates were, with the scorer embraced in a manner that suggested the players knew how important the goal was to the Portugal international. The spot-kick was Ronaldo's first goal in this competition - he played twice in the old UEFA Cup for Sporting. A warm round of applause followed his substitution from the locals who had been desperate to see him play in the flesh.


The Denmark playmaker helped dictate the tempo of the tie and produced a splendid assist for Sancho's opener. A quick free-kick also created a good chance for Ronaldo and it was impossible not to be impressed by the way he purred through his performance. In the 57th minute, a devilish cross with his left foot almost found Ronaldo and he continues to look the shrewdest of acquisitions on a free transfer. The biggest compliment we can pay him is he looks like he's been a United player for years.


Luke Shaw came on for the final 20 minutes or so, replacing Diogo Dalot. It meant Tyrell Malacia switching flanks to the right as Luke took up his usual role on the left. The full-back was included in Gareth Southgate's squad for the UEFA Nations League contests with Italy and Germany, the nation's final matches before the winter World Cup. Therefore, he will be pleased to have got some minutes under his belt following a recent injury.


David De Gea made a couple of saves, showing safe handling, to help keep Sheriff at bay and it means we now have three in our last five outings in all competitions. It is obvious how important shut-outs are and it helps build the foundation for future success. No doubt the manager will want these to continue after the extended break, with the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium set to provide a stiff test.


In the other game in Group E, played at the same time, Real Sociedad defeated Omonia Nicosia 2-1 in San Sebastian. Ander Guevara's effort was levelled by Bruno Felipe but Alexander Sorloth soon regained the lead for the team from La Liga. Hence, the Spanish side lead the table after two rounds, with the Reds joining Sheriff on three points and enjoying a better head-to-head record obviously. Our next fixture in the competition is the game in Cyprus, against Omonia on Thursday 6 October.