Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was clearly relieved after his dominant but wasteful Manchester United finally beat goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson and Copenhagen in extra time of their Europa League quarterfinal in Cologne.
“I think it was just one of those nights,” he said after the win. “I think we deserved to win, that’s clear, but they made it very hard for us.”
Johnsson made 13 saves as United out-attempted the minusM-1000 underdogs from Denmark by a 26-9 margin. The Red Devils blocked several Copenhagen chances in tight, making the Danes’ total of zero shots on target a bit deceiving.
“Their keeper was unbelievable and we hit the post a few times,” Solskjaer said. “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.”
But United was clearly the better team on the day, as expected. Juan Mata entered late in the game and was an influential sub in extra time.
He says the Red Devils were a bit beat up on a hot night in Germany.
“The team is quite tired physically,” Mata said. “At this stage of this season it is important to win games like today and we go through. We stay in Germany for quite some time and hopefully we can win.
“Both teams got a little tired and there were more spaces and more chances. They played some good football and credit to them. We could have scored more goals in extra time but we are through.”
United will meet either Sevilla or Wolves in a dynamite semifinal in one week.
The Eagles scored in the 78th minute. Puncheon’s corner kick was cleared away from the box but picked up by Joel Ward, who spotted the forward at the back post.
Puncheon took a touch and beat David De Gea high from close range. It was 1-0, and ‘Pards’ was loving it.
The lead lasted three minutes, as Wayne Rooney led a dribble through the Palace team and was forced to cross from the right side of the box. Marouane Fellaini’s chest trap fell to Mata, who made no mistake.
The match went to extra time, and United went down a man in the 105th minute when Chris Smalling added a second yellow card to the one he collected in the 18th minute.
Again, the joy for Palace was short-lived. Antonio Valencia drove the right flank to send in a cross that was blocked into the path of Lingard.
The technique was marvelous, and United completed its dozen of FA Cup trophies.
Rooney put on a decent display in a losing effort. The Derby County captain completed 11 of 15 long balls while connecting on 88 percent of his passes. He had five key passes, an interception, a blocked shot, two tackles, and a clearance (via Sofascore).
Sergio Romero denied Rooney a wonderful stoppage-time free kick goal when he flew right to slap a ball over the bar.
Shaw’s goal was a bounding effort from the left side of the box in the 33rd minute.
It’s his first since opening day of the 2018/19 Premier League season, and just his second in 151 senior appearances between Southampton and Manchester United.
Ighalo has scored in both of his starts for United this season since arriving from the Chinese Super League, and his first goal was especially deft (see below). The 30-year-old maneuvered between two defenders and finished well. He deposited his own rebound after a Juan Mata pass in the 70 minute to make it 3-0.
United will visit Norwich City in the quarterfinals, which is comprised entirely of Premier League combatants.
“It was a game with difficult conditions out there. It was almost like an astroturf. The ball was very quick and lively,” Solskjaer said. “We got the away goal. It was a very good individual goal, worked hard to win the ball and finish so we are happy with that but we know we can play better.”
The second leg is Feb. 27 at Old Trafford, four days after a Premier League encounter with Watford in the same building.
United midfielder Juan Mata had a busy day, winning the majority of his tackles and creating one key pass. He expected better from his team but sees the game for what it is.
“They scored a goal we shouldn’t concede. We scored a goal from their mistake. we wanted to win, obviously, 1-1 is not a very bad result, but we always want to win,” Mata said. “We just couldn’t find spaces, they defended very well with five plus four. We tried to play a few times through the middle, which we didn’t succeed to do that. Then we scored that goal and from then we played a bit better.”
“Yes, it backfired,” Solskjaer said, via the BBC. “You got to take them once in a while. He’ll be tested in the next few days – we have to see for Sunday. He couldn’t run. He struggled a little bit with his back and got another knock. It didn’t help.”
Rashford played just 20 minutes in the first meeting between the two on Jan. 4, but started eight other matches in the last 34 days. He went 90 minutes in five of those outings.
The injury, possibly minor, threatens to overshadow a terrific Juan Mata goal as Manchester United earned a date with either Watford and Tranmere Rovers in the fourth round.
The 1-0 win is United’s first over Wolves in six tries since the latter was promoted in 2018 (three draws, two losses).
“I think you can see it was two teams towards the end that were tired. End to end and an open game – sometimes that doesn’t suit us,” Solskjaer said. “We’re delighted to beat Wolves finally. Juan Mata is different class. He’s got the skill, composure and even pace.”
Mata’s looked great in consecutive matches, and he’s gonna need to do it more often if Rashford is unable to go for any prolonged period.