Friday 28 February 2020

Match report: Man Utd 5-0 Club Brugge (Agg: 6-1)

Bruno Fernandes-inspired Manchester United eased into the last 16 of the Europa League with a five goal rout of the hapless, ten man Belgians.

Coming into the Old Trafford tie at 1-1 but with a slender advantage through Anthony Martial's away goal, United never looked troubled and - even before Simon Deli's madcap red card - had far too much for Philippe Clement's ultimately outclassed visitors.
The Brugge defender's dismissal opened the floodgates for the Reds as Bruno Fernandes scored his second in as many games, Odion Ighalo grabbed his first United goal, Scott McTominay marked his return from injury with a trademark strike and even Fred scored twice.

Arsenal's exit at the hands of Olympiakos means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side - and divisional rivals Wolves - are the last English teams left in the draw, which will take place at midday on Friday.
There were seven changes to the first-leg team including a first start for Nigerian loan signing Ighalo, with Martial ruled out because of a slight knock and the return of McTominay after three months out.

In a frantic start to the game, United went close inside two minutes when ex Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet saved superbly to deny Juan Mata from distance. Brugge were not without intent themselves, though, and almost grabbed a shock lead as United's defence was caught napping. David Okereke couldn't finish a finish, however, and the danger passed through a combination of Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw.
Bruno Fernandes struck a post for the second time in his embryonic Reds career, but back came Brugge at the other end. Sergio Romero punched clear from top scorer Hans Vanaken's cross, the ball dropped to Mats Rits but he could only lob over the bar when well placed.

All this came in the first 15 minutes but the breakthrough came with a delayed penalty after Deli inexplicably palmed clear a goalbound Daniel James effort. There could be no doubt it was a spot-kick and a red card, but there was a four minute VAR check before referee Serdar Gozubuyuk upheld his decision.
Fernandes made no mistake with a trademark stroll-and-skip style spot kick to put United ahead after 21 minutes.
The Portuguese was inevitably involved in the second goal, too, seven minutes further on. Fernandes picked out Mata with a pinpoint pass and his fellow Iberian cut the ball back for Ighalo who merely had to tap in.

The Nigerian striker almost got a second in quick succession but was this time denied by the diving Mignolet.
McTominay, on his first start since Boxing Day, effectively put the game beyond doubt by half-time as he swept home a clinical finish after Fred had teed him up four minutes shy of the interval.

With the game and tie all wrapped up and important fixtures on the horizon, Solskjaer took the opportunity to rest James with Fernandes and McTominay following suit later on. Tahith Chong, the much maligned Jesse Lingard, and Mason Greenwood all came on as the ten men of Brugge went into damage limitation.

There were few clear cut chances in the second half, but there was still time for Fred to score only his second, and then his third, goals for the club.
Sub Lingard squared for the Brazilian to knock in number four nine minutes from time, and he capped a superb individual performance with perhaps the best goal of the game in the dying moments.

Lingard and Chong had both gone close to a fifth but another slick move unlocked the tiring visitors and Fred thumped in a teasing ball from Chong to complete the rout.
With the likes of Inter, Roma, Sevilla and Leverkusen still in the draw, this won't be easy for United but no one will want to face them in the next knockout round.

Overall team performance: 8/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: With honourable mentions to Bruno Fernandes, Mata and McTominay, we're giving this to Fred. Getting better and better by the week.

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