Match Report: St Etienne 0-1 Manchester United (AGG: 0-4)
- United through to last 16 in the Europa League after beating Saint Etienne 4-0 on aggregate
The talk before Manchester United’s second leg Last 32 tie against St Etienne was focused around Jose Mourinho’s refusal to rest his key players and the impact this could have on United’s season, rather than the near certainty of United reaching the latter stages of a European competition after a 3-0 first leg romp.
United going through was never in doubt in the end after Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s superb first half strike from a Juan Mata cross left the tie put to bed early. Mkhitaryan’s subsequent injury just before the half hour saw Mourinho perhaps regretting not resting a key player in fine form as he departed with a hamstring problem, perhaps ruling him out of Sunday’s EFL Cup final with Southampton.
Eric Bailly also left Mourinho fuming after getting himself sent off within the space of three minutes after two yellow cards for needless fouls on the same player. Bailly left his team on the backfoot and the suspension rules him out of the first leg of the last-16 tie.
Before United’s opening goal the game passed without incident, with United almost completely in control. Mata found himself in some space, showed how effective he is on his left foot with a beautifully guided ball into the centre and Henrikh Mkhitaryan expertly finished.
Worryingly for United, Mkhitaryan soon left the field with a suspected hamstring problem to be replaced by Marcus Rashford, who was happy for the introduction after a stop-start season has seen his opportunities limited.
The next real chance of note saw Ashley Young deliver a tantalising low cross which neither Mata or Rashford could get on the end of.
St Etienne appeared resigned to the fact the tie was already over and always seemed susceptible to a United attack. Their only real chance in the first half was Kevin Monnet-Paquet being thwarted with ease by United reserve goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Daley Blind gave Marouane Fellaini the chance to further put the tie beyond in doubt midway through the second half, but rather than play in the well placed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Belgian international chose to smash the ball into the side netting, leaving the Swede furious.
Minutes later Bailly had his three minutes of madness with two worryingly similar fouls on the same player leaving the referee no choice but to show him two yellows and leave himself out of United’s next European tie. Rojo replaced Mata to shore up the defence after Bailly’s recklessness.
Florentin Pogba, Paul Pogba’s brother had perhaps his most notable moment when he smashed a left footed volley wide late in the half, his brother being the victor in this match was never really in doubt.
Paul Pogba had a chance of his own later on, while Marcus Rashford showed what a nuisance he can be when given a chance with only his finishing letting him down late on.
A pleasing performance for United barring the injury and suspension and sees them build further momentum leading up to their EFL Cup final this Sunday.