Manchester United defeated Omonia Nicosia 3-2 in an entertaining clash in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, October 6. The win sees the visitors remain in second place in Group E with six points from three games.
United entered this contest on the back of three wins and two losses in their last five games across competitions. They were hammered 6-3 by cross-city rivals Manchester City in their last game.
Erik ten Hag’s men knew a win would help close the gap on group leaders Real Sociedad, who strolled to a win against Sheriff Tiraspol in the other game. The Dutch coach fielded a full-strength lineup for the game.
Manchester United dominated possession in the first half and created the majority of the chances, attempting 12 shots. However, they could only muster two shots on target among all their attempts, making things slightly easier for Omonia Nicosia. Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho had early chances but squandered them.
Omonia Nicosia grabbed a surprise lead over Manchester United after 34 minutes on the clock. The visitors were on a counterattack when Jadon Sancho decided to pass the ball backwards towards Tyrell Malacia. Omonia stole the ball and strided forward in numbers as they opened the scoring with a thumping finish by Karim Ansarifard.
Manchester United were unable to find a response as they headed into the break trailing Omonia Nicosia by 1-0.
Manchester United came out for the second period looking focussed and determined to overturn the scoreline. Ten Hag made two changes as he brought Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford into the fray. The latter made an instant impact for his side, drawing level with a superb finish after 53 minutes.
The Dutch coach then brought on Anthony Martial in place of Bruno Fernandes. Martial and Rashford exchanged a swift one-two before the Frenchman unleashed a low shot that flew into the bottom-right corner to make it 2-1 after 63 minutes. Rashford then combined with Ronaldo, receiving a pass from him before slotting it into the back of the net to put the result beyond doubt.
Manchester United secured an all-important win as they look to qualify for the knockout stages. That said, let’s take a look at the five hits and flops from the game.
#5. Hit – Karim Ansarifard
Omonia Nicosia were not at all expected to earn a result against Manchester United, let alone score a goal. However, they did the unthinkable, grabbing the lead via Ansarifard’s sharp finish after 34 minutes. He did well to stay onside and in-line with Bruno, who provided a pinpoint assist for the goal.
He scored with his only shot on target and won one of his seven duels as he did his best for his team.
#4. Flop – Jadon Sancho
Sancho was wasteful with the ball in the final third and looked for an easy way out with a backpass rather than passing it forward. His decision to play a pass to Tyrell Malacia, who was a few meters behind him during a counterattack, led to Omonia’s goal.
He played two key passes and won one duel. He attempted one shot which was off target by a distance.
#3. Hit – Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial entered the pitch after 62 minutes, replacing Bruno Fernandes as Manchester United looked to adopt an attacking approach. He scored within a minute of coming on, finishing with a lethal strike into the bottom-left corner from about 18 yards out. His goal was very crucial as it deflated the hosts, allowing United to secure the win late on.
#2. Flop – Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo had a night to forget for Manchester United. Searching for his 700th professional goal, CR7 was eager to get on the scoresheet tonight. He showed great intent from the start, ending up attempting eight shots, with a shocking six of them off target. His only effort on target was a tame one and was saved with ease.
Ronaldo also missed a big chance to put his side ahead and also played three key passes. He did provided the assist for Rashford’s second goal. However, that too was a miscued shot and he was lucky the Englishman was there at the back post.
#1. Hit – Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford was a game-changer for Manchester United as Erik ten Hag brought him on at the perfect time. He played just the second period and managed to score two beautiful goals and provide a smart backheel assist for Martial’s goal just after the hour-mark.
Rashford passed the ball with 94% accuracy, including three key passes and one long ball. He also won two of his four duels and made one tackle.