Manchester United's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League look even slimmer tonight, after Louis van Gaal's side suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Danish champions Midtjylland. United took the lead through Memphis early in the first half, though conceded swiftly and crumbled in a disappointing second half. The away goal mean United's chances of progressing into the next round aren't over, but an improved display at Old Trafford is a must.
The opening exchanges were depressingly even but entertainingly open, though the game's first two clear-cut chances both came from set-pieces. Sergio Romero was forced into an excellent reaction stop to deny a bullet header by Kian Hansen, before Chris Smalling failed to make sufficient contact on a corner whipped in by Daley Blind.
As the clock ticked on United appeared to be cranking up the pressure; a deep cross by Blind was met in the area by Anthony Martial, though his header was poor.
Despite United's pressure, Midtjylland should've broken the deadlock inside the final 10 minutes of the half: a catastrophic defensive failure from the visitors allowed them to go clean through on Romero's goal, though the Argentine made a fine save to deny a selfish Václav Kadlec.
That chance set the tone for a manic final few minutes of the half. Just seconds later Jesse Lingard surged down the right and found Memphis with a low cross, who prodded home the opening goal from point-blank range.
Alas, United weren't able to hold their advantage to the interval. Some midfield miscommunication between Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera allowed Midtjylland's young midfield talent Pione Sisto to pounce and lash a deflected shot inside Romero's near post.
The second half continued continued in similarly even fashion, to the extent that it would've been exciting had it not been the Europa League's first knockout round. Ander Herrera fired a good chance over the crossbar from the edge of the area, before Romero made another outstanding save to deny substitute Paul Onuachu.
Midtjylland appeared to be growing in confidence, and they were rewarded inside the final 20 minutes. This time Onuachu was able to beat Romero, after some sloppy play by United on the edge of the area allowed the Nigerian to fire home. United, as usual, dominated possession, but failed to pick up a result. Outfought by a team that haven't played a competitive match in two months. Damning.