Manchester United were back in Europa League action Thursday night, taking on Belgian squad Club Brugge at Jan Breydel Stadium. Emmanuel Dennis opened the scoring for the hosts in the 15th minute before United’s own number nine Anthony Martial brought the Reds level with less than 10 minutes before the interval.
The two sides meet again at Old Trafford in a week’s time and one team will book their ticket to the next round. Here are three things we learned from United’s 1-1 draw against Club Brugge.
Sergio Romero shows why he’s second string
A taboo debate this campaign has been why David de Gea continues to be awarded Premier League starts over Sergio Romero when the Argentinian has proven his worth to be considered United’s number one keeper. The Spaniard has improved in recent weeks, but the argument could be made that Romero deserves to suit up for the Reds for more than just second rate cup competition. After the costly mistake made by the veteran on Wednesday, it appears as if fans and critics alike both understand Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s apprehension.
The chip from WAY out puts Club Brugge ahead of Manchester United pic.twitter.com/1m5dNuPY9f— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) February 20, 2020
In an attempt to beat Dennis to the ball, Romero exited the penalty box and ran into open play. With just one touch, Dennis was able to sail the ball over the 32-year-old’s head and find the back of the net. It was a rare, yet woeful mistake for Romero, who for a quick moment demonstrated why he might not be ready for his long-awaited Premier League promotion. Dreadful blooper considered, it doesn’t diminish the contributions he’s made in competitions outside of the Premier League this year and in years past.
Martial continues to silence critics
Surely, United figured they would exit Belgium as the winning side. After all, Monday’s victory over Chelsea likely instilled some extra confidence entering the mid-week affair. After Brugge’s surprising lead, it became apparent that unless the offense tightened up, Philippe Clemente’s men would easily put a couple more past the lethargic defense. Solskjaer wasted no time instructing his men to go heavy on the offense after Dennis’ opening goal, and that consequently worked to his advantage.
Anthony Martial takes advantage of the Club Brugge error pic.twitter.com/nrGnAjkgmQ— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) February 20, 2020
Similar to United’s slack defending for the first goal, Martial capitalized on an error by Brugge’s defender to level the sides in the 36th minute. This equals two goals in two matches for the Frenchman, who is putting those who chastised his form earlier this season on notice. With Rashford’s timetable for return looking to be longer than expected, this sudden burst in form for Martial should suffice for the time being.
United must improve next week
It all ends at the Theatre of Dreams next Thursday, and United are still the likely favorite to advance into the next round. Not only do they have a crucial away goal, but also the added benefit of playing in front of thousands of adoring (albeit frustrated) supporters. The inconsistencies this season certainly add to the anxiety regarding whether the Reds can meet expectations. That being said, it’s time to Solskjaer to inspire his men in the same manner Sir Alex Ferguson did for him back when he suited up for this storied club.
From here on out, every match either affects United’s chances of winning trophies or the likelihood they’ll be playing Champions League football. Even further, it determines whether key players like Paul Pogba will stay past this campaign or whether they can recruit top talent during the summer transfer window. The early impact of Bruno Fernandes, consistency of Fred, and much-needed burst of morale in Martial shows there’s a functioning football club at Old Trafford. Whether fans be treated to a Chelsea-like performance or a repeat of Wednesday’s uninspiring draw remains to be seen.