Manchester United might be outside the Premier League top four, but they’re now just 90 minutes away from a chance at qualifying for the Champions League.
The Red Devils earned a 1-0 first-leg victory over Celta Vigo in the Europa League semifinals, bringing the win and away goal back to Old Trafford. It likely should have been much more, as the Red Devils were yet again plagued by poor finishing, but the visitors eventually found the winner in the 67th minute as Marcus Rashford scored the game’s only goal.
Celta Vigo, a pesky Spanish side in both La Liga and Europa League play all season, had the first big chance of the game as Nemanja Radoja crossed for Daniel Wass just 10 minutes in, but the Danish international couldn’t direct his header on target and put it wide.
United built themselves into the game shortly after, with Paul Pogba impressing throughout the first half, forcing Sergio Alvarez to produce a litany of sparkling saves. Rashford nearly opened the scoring 20 minutes in, but the fingertips of the Spaniard kept him out. Past the half-hour mark, Pogba fed through Henrikh Mkhitaryan but Alvarez was there to deny him. Marouane Fellaini was issued a first-half caution for a heavy foul on Pablo Hernandez.
Alvarez again kept the game scoreless minutes later as Rashford fed Jesse Lingard through, but the Celta shot-stopper kept it out. At the halftime whistle, neither side had found a breakthrough, despite United’s dominance.
After the break, it remained the same for the first 20 minutes as United held the possession but failed to find the back of the net. Finally, the visitors had a deserved lead, using a set-piece to their advantage. A free-kick from the top of the box saw Rashford step up and deliver a bender past Alvarez, put off by a fake from Daley Blind, and the 19-year-old deposited a sparkling hit in for a 1-0 lead.
Lingard nearly doubled United’s lead with 15 minutes remaining but couldn’t direct his volley on net, firing just wide right. Jose Mourinho brought Rashford off for Anthony Martial with 10 minutes left, with Rashford grimacing with a potential knock. Mourinho brought on Chris Smalling to shore things up, and Celta Vigo had no more answers. United brings the away goal back to Old Trafford for the second leg next week, and a win there would send them through to the finals against either Ajax or Lyon.