Manchester United booked their place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League with a hard-fought 1-0 win over FC Copenhagen, with Bruno Fernandes scoring yet another penalty kick.
Manchester United came into the game as overwhelming favourites to progress to the last four, though they made hard work of their quarter-final tie on what was a warm and muggy night in Cologne.
In the opening periods, United’s passing was sloppy at times, creating problems for themselves at the back while being unable to break down their well-drilled Danish opponents, Stale Solbakken’s side also managing to break forward and create some decent half chances.
It looked as though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had finally taken the lead just before the break with the first real moment of quality, Mason Greenwood latching on to a Marcus Rashford flick on, and despite the narrowing angle, the teen sensation expertly cracked the ball into the back of the net off the far post with his supposedly weaker right-foot – only to see VAR chalk it off for offside.
United looked better after the break, and again saw a goal ruled out, Marcus Rashford a couple of yards offside as he tapped in the rebound after Greenwood’s left-footed strike had crashed off the post, while Bruno Fernandes also saw an effort come back off the upright just after the hour mark following a shot from distance.
Despite creating a whole host of chances, Solskjaer’s side were unable to find a breakthrough in regulation time, but finally got themselves on the scoresheet three minutes into extra time through what has become a somewhat familiar route – the Red Devils handed their 21st penalty of the season following a foul on Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes duly stepping up to despatch the spot-kick.
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While United were far from their best at times, they could well have scored a hat full on the night, being repeatedly denied by a combination of the post and the excellent Copenhagen ‘keeper Karl-Johan Johnsson who made a Europa League record 13 saves.
Speaking afterwards, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was ‘delighted’ to see his side progress to yet another semi-final, United having reached the last four in both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup this season.
“It’s the third time this season we have been to a semi-final so we are delighted to get through,” the Norwegian told BT Sport. “We deserved it, their keeper was unbelievable and we hit the post a few times.
“It could have been one of those nights that you end up with a shootout. We had to block, defend well and they made it hard for us. They were well organised with a gameplan, I knew they would be hard to break down so we had to be patient. We knew we would get chances, our attackers will always create chances.”
United will now face either Sevilla or Wolves in the last four, while Inter Milan secured their place on their side of the draw courtesy of a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.