Manchester United to face Ajax in Europa League final after surviving Old Trafford nail-biter
Europa League, Semi-Final, Old Trafford – Manchester United 1 (2) Celta de Vigo 1 (1)
United reached the Europa League final in typical style, turning a routine assignment into the riddle of the Sphinx before finally scraping home. If they do not play better in Stockholm against Ajax, they will find themselves on the other end of a kicking.
This was a lesson learnt by Celta last week - it seemed impossible for them to play as badly as they did then, could possibly play as badly as they did then and they did not, starting the game with confidence and conviction. But gradually United improved, and on 17 minutes increased their aggregate lead, Marouane Fellaini heading home Marcus Rashford's wonderful cross.
For a few minutes United played well enough to suggest that the tie would soon be over, but Celta came again and created by far the better chances in the second half. In the event, John Guidetti missed them all, but with four minutes remaining, Facundo Roncaglia headed home Theo Bongonda's cross, and suddenly the game erupted.
Two minutes later, some minor argy-bargy led to the dismissal of Rocaglia and Eric Bailly - Bailly will miss the final - and then with ten seconds remaining, Hugo Malo launched the ball downfield, a flick-on finding Clauio Beauvue; he knocked wide for Theo Bongonda. He might have shot, but squared for Guidetti instead, and as time stopped he contrived to muddle his feet, unable to turn home from close range. Immediately, the final whistle went, and United were there. Just.
Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho celebrates after the UEFA Europa League semi-final, second-leg football match between Manchester United and Celta Vigo at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on May 11, 2017Getty Images
Which United will turn up for the final? A few moments aside, United were miserable tonight, and with no excuse - most of the team had been rested at the weekend. Against Ajax, they will meet a fast, aggressive, enterprising side who will attack them, and have a clinical finisher in Kasper Dolberg. They will need a plan, and they will need to be far more focused than tonight.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Hugo Mallo (Celta Vigo): Endured a chastening chasing last week, but was excellent this, his leadership and attacking thrust giving Celta impetus and forcing Henrikh Mkhitaryan back. Bailly and Roncaglia were also very good, but their silly red cards counted against them.
Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba celebrates after the UEFA Europa League semi-final, second-leg football match between Manchester United and Celta Vigo at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on May 11, 2017. ManchesterGetty Images
- Manchester United have reached the final of the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time in their history.
- The victory for the hosts saw them qualify for their seventh major European final, and their first since the 2010/11 Champions League (v Barcelona).
- Mourinho’s side will now meet Ajax in the Europa League final, in what will be the third meeting between English and Dutch sides in a European final (also Spurs v Feyenoord in 1974 and Ipswich v AZ in 1981, both in the UEFA Cup).
- The Red Devils have progressed from each of their last three semi-final ties in European competition – also v Arsenal in 2008/09 and Schalke 04 in 2010/11 in the Champions League.
- Marcus Rashford has been directly involved in each of Manchester United's last four goals in the Europa League (2 goals, 2 assists).
- Eric Bailly has been sent off twice in the Europa League in 2016/17, more than any other player in the competition.
17’ - GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Celta Vigo (Fellaini) agg 2-0 Marcus Rashford is exhilaratingly, mortifyingly, intensifyingly, life-affirmingly wonderful! Mkhitaryan finds him in space at inside-left and Fellaini, on the shoulder of the last man on the other side of the box, points to where he wants the ball. So Rashford delivers it perfectly, curling into the space between keeper and defence, and with Alvarez expecting a header towards his far post, he can't keep out the one bashed in off his near one!
42’ - Celta knock it about nicely, and Sisto does brilliantly on the left to feint inside, drag outside, and leave Herrera choking in the dust. He then whips over a superb cross and Darmian, useless so far, allows Wass to contort around him; his thumping header flies only just wide.
46’ - Lovely ball over the top from Sisto, from centre to right, and Mallo runs in behind Mkhitaryan, smacking a low cross into the middle. But Romero gets down very well and strongarms it towards Valencia, who hacks clear.
58’ - This is getting dicey for United, Mallo advancing down the right and slinging over a cross for Sisto. With Valencia caught under the ball he might shoot first time, but instead taps back for Guidetti, who can't wrap enough of his foot around the ball, sending it wide of the near post from eight yards. Big chance.
76’ - Oh my! Mallo comes inside on his left foot, and with Mkhitaryan's challenge not even cursory, he curls a cross to the near post. AND GUIDETTI IS UP BETWEEN BLIND AND BAILLY! But he can't quite get his head around it, up too early and connecting on the way down. His effort goes plenty wide in the end, but that was a wonderful opportunity.
86’ - GOAL! Manchester United 1-1 Celta Vigo (Roncaglia) agg 2-1 Oh! The corner goes short, Bongonda curls it into the box, and Bailly can't get to Roncaglia, who guides a header into the far corner! Can Celta get another? Can United hold out! Now it's nervy
88’ - Two red cards! One for Bailly and one for Roncaglia! Celta would've taken that! Herrera goes down under a challenge, there's a kerfuffle, Bailly shoves Guidetti who takes a tumble with double-tuck, various others hold him back, Valencia shoves Guidetti, Roncaglia grabs Pogba from the back, and he and Bailly are dismissed! The state of this!
90+6’ - OH MY DAYS! Mallo launches the ball downfield, United make an absurd mess of defending it as Celta get the flick-on. Beauveau turns it around the corner, Bongonda might shoot, but instead crosses for Guidetti WHO CAN'T TURN IT HOME! AND THE FINAL WHISTLE GOES!