Saturday, 15 April 2017

United in the quarter final driving seat despite late setback

United again showed a lack of killer instinct in Belgium but remain in control of the quarter-final tie.

A draw away at the leaders of the Belgian top flight, who hung in doggedly to snatch an 87th-minute equaliser, is no bad result.

The first leg draw - our 10th 1-1 of the season - only served to emphasise the mood that for all our quality, might and strength in depth, we remain a frustratingly underwhelming side at times.

Thanks to Henrikh Mkhitaryan's away goal, United are favourites to progress and should have enough to finish the job back at Old Trafford next week.

However, we'll need to avoid similar mistakes such as the one that allowed Leander Dendoncker to steal in and score.
With dangerous opponents elsewhere in the draw, notably Lyon, Ajax and Schalke, similar lapses could easily throw our European ambitions off course. 

The Reds have one foot in the semi finals after a display that yielded plenty of purpose and promise but again we paid the price for wastefulness.

At Old Trafford, we should be too strong for the Belgian side although with this side it is hard to take too much for granted.
The more we let reprieved opponents off the hook, the more likely that, eventually, we'll pay a greater price for doing so. 

From our 52 fixtures in a busy season so far, 14 of them have been draws.

It's not hard to see where United's shortcomings lie - we fail to kill teams off, don't score enough goals and are getting punished for profligacy. 

United's long and protracted Europa League journey has taken in other disappointing evenings away to Feyenoord, Fenerbahce and Rostov.
Jose's frustration in Brussels will be centred not on a poor performance, but one of missed opportunities and a late defensive lapse - as we've seen so often before this season. 

It's becoming a broken record now and Jose is not the only one wondering when - and how -  this team will find the ruthless edge that will make everyone's life a lot easier. 

United are four wins away from securing the only major trophy we've never won and the silverware that launched Jose's career 14 years ago when at Porto. 

Despite having since won the Champions League twice, the boss has maintained throughout our run in Europe that he considers the Europa League to be a pot worth winning. 

We're by far the biggest club left in the competition and, having committed so much to winning it, not going all the way to the Stockholm final in May now seems almost unforgivable.




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