Semi-final 1st leg
Manchester United 6-2 AS Roma
Manchester United produced a scintillating second-half fightback to put one foot in the Europa League final with a thrilling 6-2 semi-final first-leg victory over Roma at Old Trafford.
United’s semi-final curse under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked set to continue when Lorenzo Pellegrini’s penalty and Edin Dzeko’s sixth Old Trafford goal cancelled out Bruno Fernandes’ brilliant opener to hand Roma two away goals before half-time.
United looked shell-shocked and out of ideas but wrestled back control with a devastating attacking display as Edinson Cavani’s double, Fernandes’ second from the penalty spot, Paul Pogba’s header and Mason Greenwood’s sixth saw them score five unanswered goals.
Roma, who were forced into three substitutions before the interval due to injury, grew wearier with each passing minute and were fortunate to escape Old Trafford without conceding seven like they did in 2007, though that will come as little consolation to Paulo Fonseca’s side as their hopes of reaching the final were effectively ended.
Roma lost midfielder Jordan Veretout to injury inside five minutes and, four minutes later, United grabbed the initiative with a breakthrough goal which oozed class and quality.
Pogba skipped around two Roma challenges before feeding the ball up to Cavani who, with his back to goal, released Fernandes with a first-time pass which the Portuguese lifted delicately and devastatingly over on-rushing goalkeeper Pau Lopez.
United’s perfect start lasted barely five minutes, with Pogba harshly penalised for handball while sliding in to block Rick Karsdorp’s cross. The Frenchman deflected the ball onto his arm at close proximity, but the referee stuck with his decision, handing Roma captain Pellegrini the chance to score an away goal, which he took emphatically.
Roma’s injury problems worsened on 25 minutes as goalkeeper Pau Lopez was forced off with a suspected dislocated shoulder seconds after parrying Pobga’s drive from the edge of the box. Veteran 37-year-old stopper Antonio Mirante came off the bench, but Roma’s concerns soon turned to joy as they took control of the tie.
The lively Leonardo Spinazzola made inroads down the left flank, shifted the ball inside to former United forward Henrikh Mkhitaryan who released Pellegrini in behind, and he squared for Dzeko to bundle in his customary Old Trafford goal.
Spinazzola became the third Roma player forced off through injury, a setback which didn’t look to have derailed the Italians until the stroke of half-time, when Cavani intercepted centre-back Ibanez’s wayward pass, but the Uruguayan was thwarted by Mirante in goal before Amadou Diawara blocked his follow-up shot.
United re-emerged from the break reinvigorated and needed just three minutes to draw level, with Cavani wrapping a clinical effort into the top corner of the Roma goal having held up play and exchanged passes with Fernandes.
The goal marked to start of a period of domination from Solskjaer’s side, with Cavani restoring United’s lead with a tap-in after Roma goalkeeper Mirante spilled Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s drive.
Three became four on 71 minutes when former United defender Chris Smalling was penalised for a late foul on Cavani in the area, and Fernandes confidently converted his 20th penalty in United colours.
With Roma out on their feet, Pogba glanced in a header from Fernandes’ inch-perfect cross and there was still time for substitute Greenwood to get in on the act with a deflected sixth which ensured a once-promising night for Roma ended with more Old Trafford misery and left United on the brink of another Europa League final.
Manchester United host Liverpool on Sunday while Roma travel to Sampdoria in Serie A on the same day. United then travel to Rome for their Europa League semi-final second leg next Thursday at 8pm.