Manchester United drew 1-1 with Belgian side Anderlecht in the first leg of their Europa League Quarter Final clash. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the opening goal, and the visitors looked to be on course for an away win, but for an equaliser from Leander Dendoncker in the 86th minute. With this goal, United take an advantage into to the second leg, due to an important away goal.
United took the lead in the 37th minute through Mkhitaryan’s tap-in, the Armenian was in the right place at the right time following up Marcus Rashford’s spectacular shot from Antonio Valencia’s cross, which was well saved by the home side’s keeper Ruben, who has previously been on Barcelona’s books, making two appearances for their senior side. He made a fine save but, couldn’t do much as Mkhitaryan followed up with a shot from a very tight angle. United could have scored more goals in the first 45 minutes, had it not been for some impressive goalkeeping by Ruben and brilliant defending by Senegalese defender Kara Mbodji, who was responsible for keeping the United attack at bay with his well-timed tackles.
Anderlecht started the second half very well and came close twice in the first ten minutes of the second period. However, United again asserted their dominance as the match went on, and were unlucky to have not scored a second. It was then that United’s inability to kill off teams surfaced again, as Anderlecht’s equalising goal came out of nowhere. Ivan Obradovic’s scintillating cross was headed home by Dendoncker, which came from hosts’ only shot on target. United tried to score another to snatch a win but, couldn’t do so and now come home with just a point, albeit with an important away goal.
Here are the Talking Points from the match-
Resilient Anderlecht defence
The home team defended with everything on the line and were solid enough to restrict the visitors to a solitary goal. The centre-back partnership of Mbodji and Bram Nuytinck was exceptional, while Dennis Appiah dominated the left flank. René Weiler will be particularly happy with his side’s defending after this outing.
Deafening Home Support
The home side had a big advantage, particularly because of the splendid support from their fans. The away side had a paltry sum of a little over 1000 fans, who were apparently no match for the home support. The deafening noise and the cheers created a great atmosphere, and their jeering perhaps led to Michael Carrick being booked in the first half. If United’s support in the second leg is even half as good as this, consider the tie over in no time.
Carrick Deserves Another Year
Agreed- he’s had a few poor games recently but, Michael Carrick isn’t finished yet. He was United’s best player in the first half, and his pinpoint passes and decisive tackles showed his quality, even at 35. He dominated the midfield and gave Youri Tielemans little space to create any problems. Carrick certainly won’t be considered first choice next season, but his ample experience and composure can prove to be the difference in such away European ties.
Tielemans Unable to Impress
Anderlecht captain and teen sensation Tielemans had a night to forget as he was unable to keep up with the weight of the expectations on his shoulder. The midfielder, who is being heralded as the new Kevin de Bruyne, is being targeted by AC Milan and Monaco, and has been linked with the Old Trafford club as well. However, this was apparently a stage too big for him, and he’ll be out to make amends in the second leg of the tie.
Vital Away Goal
United come back from the trip with an important away goal advantage, which has made United heavy favourites to advance to the Semi-Finals. However, the tie is far from over, and United cannot afford to relax in the second leg. Anderlecht have shown their strong mentality with the equaliser, and United must be wary of their bright talents like Tielemans, Acheampong, and Bruno in the next week’s game at Old Trafford.