Manchester United beat LASK 5-0 in Linz to all but confirm their spot in the Europa League Quarter-final, should they go ahead. Goals from Odion Ighalo, Dan James, Juan Mata, Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira did the damage. Supporters were absent from the stadium; the authorities ordering a behind closed doors encounter.
Manchester United Comfortably Beat LASK Linz
Manchester United Play Behind Closed Doors
No fans were in attendance in Linz. The COVID-19 disease is spreading across Europe at a quick rate, meaning mass gatherings are limited. The impact on the game was that it started very slowly. The lack of atmosphere made the game much like a friendly, both sides languidly moved the ball with no real intent. The first half was tame due to this. Both sides failed to create many major chances in the first half, and the leisurely manner in which the ball moved meant this game felt like a training session.
Eventually, the players adapted to the situation and grew into the game. United’s passing was crisp for the most part. The midfield of Scott McTominay, Fred and Bruno Fernandes set the tempo in the centre, focusing on short, sharp passes in an attempt to work it into the likes of Ighalo and James. Mata’s role was interesting as he began on the right-hand side, but was seemingly given the freedom to roam into midfield too. As a result, United had a dominant foothold in the midfield, with LASK failing to deal with the short interchangeable passes.
More games will be played behind closed doors, it is widely anticipated, and Manchester United didn’t seem phased. This is key as if they are to progress to the latter stages of the competition, they have to adapt to a lack of support. Though LASK are an inferior opponent, they made the Austrian side look poor. Despite the slow start, United’s rhythm was not disrupted, still playing the ball through the lines. The main aim was to always create the next chance. Fernandes created five chances in the first half alone. That became the running theme of the game.
Five Expertly Taken Goals
Not only did United score five in consecutive Europa League games, but the quality of those goals were also superb. The focus of playing directly into goalscoring opportunities meant that each goal oozed class. Ighalo’s thunderous effort began the proceedings when he finished on 29 minutes. The Nigerian confidently controlled Bruno’s pass by juggling the ball before striking it into the top corner from 20-yards. He now has four goals in three games when he has started for United.
On the hour mark, Dan James doubled United’s lead. LASK looked dangerous, especially from set-pieces, after the break and threatened Sergio Romero’s goal on a few occasions. This allowed United to hit LASK with a swift counter-attack. Dan James managed to run down the left before taking the ball past three defenders and scoring at the near post. Some have questioned his decision making in recent weeks, but James’ decision to be direct and drive with the ball appeared to be correct.
The game seemed to be fizzing out before United scored three quick goals in the final ten minutes. Fred, who controlled the game in an expert fashion, threaded a ball through the eye of a needle to Mata. The Spaniard superbly wrong-footed the goalkeeper and made it three. NOt long after, two substitutes combined for the fourth. Tahith Chong found space in the centre of the park, before finding Mason Greenwood bursting down the left channel. His expert finish rattled both posts before finding the net. Finally, almost immediately after the fourth, Andreas Pereira rounded off the scoring. He found space around 30-yards out and caught LASK’s keeper by surprise. Alexander Schlager’s efforts to save was weak and the ball whistled underneath him.
Manchester United’s Excellent Run Continues
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be pleased with the way his side crafted their goals and chances in Austria. Though the opposition were inferior, the build-up play and interlinking between key players are encouraging signs. It is clear that the squad is playing with new-found confidence and cannot wait to step out onto the pitch.
Not only was the general performance pleasing, but Solskjaer must be delighted with the relentless nature of his side’s end to the game. It would have been easy to switch off and be happy with a 2-0 win. United strived for more tonight. Such is the confidence right now, they did not want a mediocre victory, they wanted a headline scoreline. The final ten minutes of pressure killed off LASK; taking their willpower and energy away from an otherwise spirited display.
The result means Manchester United continue their unbeaten run. It is now 11 unbeaten in all competitions for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men as they continue their quest for Champions League football. Paul Pogba is set to return to the side soon, giving the midfield yet another boost. It could be that the Red Devils are hitting form at the perfect time.
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