Manchester United 2-1 LASK (7-1 agg): Solskjaer’s side ease into Europa League quarter-finals
Manchester United reached the Europa League last eight in comfortable fashion, coming from behind to beat LASK at Old Trafford.
Jesse Lingard cancelled out a spectacular opening goal from Philipp Wiesinger at Old Trafford before substitute Anthony Martial sealed the win with two minutes of normal time left.
The first-leg thrashing in Austria, United’s last game before the coronavirus pandemic halted the season, set the Red Devils up for a relatively comfortable return game against a side whose domestic season finished a month ago.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made nine changes from the team that ended the Premier League season with a 2-0 win at Leicester City, leading to a disjointed first-half display in which they failed to muster a shot on target.
Andres Andrade nodded the ball off the crossbar and Marko Raguz was denied by a good Sergio Romero save, as LASK showed greater early initiative.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 5, 2020
United’s first meaningful effort on goal was a low strike from Odion Ighalo, who turned well from Juan Mata’s pass but shot too close to Alexander Schlager.
At the other end, Romero could do nothing to stop Wiesinger putting LASK ahead, the defender sending a stunning first-time strike into the top-right corner from 25 yards out.
The lead lasted just two minutes, though, Mata sending a pass into the path of Lingard, who had plenty of time to side-foot past Schlager from inside the penalty area.
Romero just about kept out a Dominik Reiter effort at his near post before Solskjaer handed 18-year-old Teden Mengi his senior debut at right-back.
It was another second-half substitute, Martial, who got the winner, combining superbly with Mata before side-footing through the legs of Schlager, who was just unable to keep the shot out.
36 – Timothy Fosu-Mensah is the 36th different player to play for Manchester United in the @EuropaLeague this season – at least eight more than any other side. Variety. #MUNLASK pic.twitter.com/Z9y7CFHbff
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 5, 2020
What does it mean? United must now wake up and smell Cologne
It would have been a truly sensational result if LASK had come back to win this tie, and Solskjaer’s changed line-up was no surprise given the fatigue some of his players had shown at the end of the league season.
This was a chance for some back-up players to stake a claim for a starting spot in the quarter-final in Cologne next Monday, when United will take on Copenhagen, who were 3-1 aggregate winners over Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir.
For the established stars given a chance to rest, the preparation starts now.
Lingard finding form at last
“I lost who I was as a player and person, but I never wanted to give up,” Lingard wrote on social media after scoring his first league goal of the season with practically the last kick of the final game at Leicester.
The England international admitted to some tough self-reflection after a very difficult season, but a second goal in as many games is a sign he is beginning to find his way again.
Brandon Williams earned a new contract thanks to a breakthrough season for United, but his recent outings in place of the injured Luke Shaw have not been of the highest standard.
He was defensively capable on Wednesday but, as a right-footed left-back, he simply does not offer enough of an attacking threat on the overlap down the wing. Shaw’s absence for the rest of the tournament could be keenly felt.
United will now prepare for the meeting with Copenhagen in Germany on August 10. As for LASK, they have three friendlies scheduled before their 2020-21 season starts in the domestic cup against Siegendorf on August 27.