United clearly dominated the first leg tie against Belgian leaders Anderlecht, but failed to turn this into a victory. Lack of quality finishing spared Anderlecht, who managed to snatch an equalizer in the dying stages of the game.
It ended 1-1, a result United has become well accustomed to this season. It’s the tenth time they end a game with this result. Despite high hopes of winning the Europa League trophy, the team managed by Jose Mourinho ran into many of the same problems plaguing them this entire season. The team enjoyed the majority of possession and used it to create chances. However, once again the offensive players failed to make the chances pay.
Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored his side’s only goal. Mkhitaryan and Pogba had other clear cut chances of scoring as the game moved seemed to slowly move towards it’s expected outcome. Anderlecht held on and scored the equalizer through Dendoncker in the 87th minute leaving frustrated United fans and management.
Jose Mourinho seemed particularly upset with his forwards. “If I was a Man United defender I would be very upset with the attacking players,” he said, “because they had to kill the game and they didn’t.”
Michael Carrick was in charge of United’s passing game from the midfield. Once again he was almost without fault. However, the attacking players, Ibrahimovic, Lingard, Rashford, were uninspired. It’s something United will have to deal with and fast. While Ibrahimovic has been on form for most the season, few other strikers showed the same quality of finishing. United will have to find a striker to relieve Zlatan of some of his responsibilities. At he moment it’s doubtful that particular striker is already wearing a Man United shirt.
The Europa League is a trophy United has to win. It would round off a rather disappointing first season for Mourinho at United and would give the team access to next season’s Champions League. United are currently in danger on missing out on the top four in the Premier League.
The Europa League trophy is also important as the trophy that practically launched Mourinho’s international career. The manager won the trophy 14 years ago with Porto. He then moved on to success at Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid. As heir to Alex Ferguson, Mourinho is expected to deliver trophies at home, as well as abroad. Failing to qualify for next year’s Champions League would represent a significant failure.
Manchester will hope to earn an easy qualification against Anderlecht at home. However, the long season is taking it’s toll on the team and their manager needs to try and rest players and make changes for those injured. United’s next game is against Premier League leaders Chelsea, Mourinho’s former team. Fans will hope the Red Devils are ready to learn from their mistakes against Anderlecht and deliver at a vital time.