The Mourinho gamble has worked as United are now just a win away from the Champions League and their second (and a half) trophy this season.
Marouane Fellaini’s first-half goal sent United on their way and gave Celta an uphill task to reach the finals. Credit to Celta, they pushed until the very end.
It was the visitors that started the game brightly. They looked confident on the ball and could have taken the lead just four minutes into the game. Former Liverpool player Iago Aspas did well to cut in from the right and take a shot. Sergio Romero was equal to the task as he tipped the ball over the bar. However, Celta’s comeback was all but ended before it even began as Marcus Rashford’s inch perfect cross was met at the far post by Marouane Fellaini. Celta’s Sergio Alvarez could have done better but could only deflect the ball into the net.
United looked better and more composed on the ball after Fellaini’s opener. They looked set to kill the tie in the first half itself. But United did what it did all season – waste chances. Jesse Lingard and Henrik Mkhitaryan could have extended United’s lead. Pogba was optimistic in taking a shot from way out. His effort sailed miles over the bar. But for all United’s chances, it remained 1-0 United. Celta were just a goal away from being back in the game and the tie.
Daley Blind was far from convincing in the first half and two mistakes at the center of defense. The second one could have proven costly but Romero was on hand to deny Aspas once again.
Ten minutes after Fellaini’s goal, Pablo Hernandez’s shot was tipped over the bar by the excellent Romero, while Daniel Wass’s headed wide from a cross by Pione Sisto.
Like in the first half, Celta were quicker off the blocks in the second half and had a glorious chance to equalize on the night but Romero turned away Hugo Mallo drive at goal from an acute angle. But United found their footing once again. Mkhitaryan’s bullet of a shot from the edge of the box had to be dealt with by Alvarez. Another Celta chance was wasted on the hour mark after former City man John Guidetti wasted another Sisto cross.
Minutes later, Rashford skipped past 3 challenges and made himself a decent amount of space inside the box but fired his shot straight at the advancing Alvarez. Alvarez was also on hand to save Fellaini’s low shot moments later. Celta continued to threaten as Jozabed was just wide of the mark from distance and Guidetti missed an open header.
United ringed in the changes, bringing on the experience of Carrick and Rooney in place of Mkhitaryan and Lingard.
Rashford again did brilliantly well from the edge of the box to make space for himself. But Celta were always in the game and scored five minutes from time through Roncaglia. All throughout the match and the tie. It boiled over just after Celta’s goal with shoves and punches involved. The aftermath saw the in-form Eric Bailly and Roncaglia sent off. The two had to be escorted off by members of the coaching staff and tempers threatened to boil over yet again. Smalling was brought on for Rashford just before the fourth official signaled six extra minutes.
Celta continued to press and Herrera went down with cramps. Then Fellaini went down under pressure at the edge of Celta’s box which the referee adjudged as a foul on the Big Belgian. United and Rooney tried to kill time and Old Trafford was on ‘squeaky-bum time’. Herrera bundled the ball home but it was chalked off after the referee adjudged Pogba to have fouled Mallo in the buildup. Celta could have won the match and the tie in extra time
but John Guidetti missed his kick from 6 yards out in what turned out to be the final kick of the tie.
The final whistle saw Mourinho go full Judas and waved a United scarf in front of the Stretford End to cheers from the Old Trafford faithful
United survived and will fight Ajax for the title in Stockholm in two weeks’ time sans the mercurial Bailly.