Europa League three things: Pogba sparks Man Utd; Rangers self-destruct

Manchester United
Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t have to lambaste his Manchester United the way Jose Mourinho roasted his sleepy Tottenham Hotspur.

Manchester United joined Arsenal in the Europa League quarterfinals with a Paul Pogba-led win over AC Milan, the super sub scoring three minutes after halftime.

[ MORE: Tottenham implodes | Arsenal, Granada, Roma advance ]

Solskjaer also needed Dean Henderson to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but we’ll get to all of that below as the Red Devils joined Villarreal, Slavia Prague, and Ajax in sealing late afternoon wins.

1. Pogba returns in glorious fashion as Henderson stops Zlatan’s hero bid

Paul Pogba needed less than three minutes of his first match since Feb. 6 to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a statement win in the Europa League.

Pogba’s 48th-minute goal lifted Manchester United past AC Milan 1-0 at the San Siro on Thursday, the midfielder entering at halftime for Marcus Rashford and swinging the tie in the visitors’ favor after a 1-1 draw in Manchester.

This was an even match; United had a 13-10 shot advantage but the teams shared 50 percent possession.

A goalless draw would been enough for Milan, but the deficit meant a 65th-minute introduction for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The ex-United forward nearly leveled the score with a trademark leaping backpost header, but Dean Henderson made a great save.

With Tottenham also departing the tournament, United can taste the end of their semifinal curse If they can advance two more rounds and play in what could be their only final of the year.

We’ll find out whether that’s true on Sunday, when United and Leicester City meet up in the FA Cup quarterfinals.

2. Rangers’ win streak ends in ugly, decisive fashion

Steven Gerrard’s Scottish champions rarely lose but when they lost in a very loud manner with a nine-man, 2-0 second-leg loss to Slavia Prague on Thursday in Glasgow.

The aggregate scoreline finished 3-1, Slavia adding Steven Gerrard to a victim list that includes Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City from the Round of 32.

The Scottish side trailed 1-0 in the second leg on a Peter Olayinka goal when the game turned dramatically in the Czechs’ favor.

Rangers striker Kemar Roofe was sent off for a hideous studs-up lunge to poke a ball past the keeper that instead caught Ondrej Kolar in the face, sending both players out of the game.

The hosts were only down a man for 12 minutes, because they were then down two when Leon Balogun made an unnecessary challenge and gave away a free kick to Nicolae Stanciu. The Romanian playmaker sent it home and Gerrard’s men were done.

Rangers are unbeaten in Scottish Premiership play, winning 28 of 32 league matches, and were previously unbeaten in nine Europa League matches. A December 16 loss to St. Mirren in the Scottish League Cup is Gerrard’s only loss this season.

3. Villarreal, Ajax have no problems avoiding upset bids to complete power-packed final eight

Villarreal beat Dynamo Kiev 2-0 at home and Ajax held off Young Boys 2-0 in Switzerland to complete straight-forward Round of 16 wins.

That means the quarterfinal draw sees six names from big leagues in Arsenal, Villarreal, Manchester United, Ajax, Roma, and Granada to go with plucky Slavia Prague and Dinamo Zagreb.

All of the ties will be interesting. Could Unai Emery and Villarreal be paired up with old pals Arsenal? Might Chris Smalling, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Roma match wits with Manchester United?

Bring on the final eight.