Manchester United booked their place in the Europa League quarterfinals courtesy of a 2-1 win at home to LASK on Wednesday, sealing a 7-1 aggregate triumph. The Austrian outfit took a surprise second half lead in a low-quality affair at Old Trafford, though goals from Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial sealed a comeback win for the hosts.
The game was a dead rubber from the get-go, and it was apparent. United played without urgency or accuracy, with a succession of sloppy passes preventing them from testing LASK’s goalkeeper in the first half. The tone was set in the opening minutes, when Juan Mata was sent free down the right and should’ve played a simple square ball for Odion Ighalo, though the Spaniard hesitated, and the chance disappeared. Time and again United found themselves in space on the counter, but lacked the precision in their final ball.
Indeed, the better early chances were LASK’s. After ten minutes, young centre-half Andrés Andrade headed the ball against Sergio Romero’s crossbar, before his teammate Philipp Wiesinger skewed the rebound wide. Just short of the half-hour a Husein Balić cross was met by Marko Raguž at the near post, though his header flashed across the face of goal and wide of the target.
United could’ve gone ahead early in the second half, when Ighalo did what he does best: using his long limbs to hold off defenders and work space for a shot. Alas, the final product was tame, and comfortably held by the LASK keeper. Minutes later a low cross from Brandon Williams threatened to turn into an assist, though both Daniel James and Lingard failed to make contact from point-blank range, and the ball flashed straight out of the other side of the visitors’ penalty area.
The hosts had taken control of the game, which only made it all the more surprising when they went behind moments later. It was a bolt from the blue; a brilliant strike from Wiesinger, whose curling shot from the edge of the area found the top corner of Romero’s goal. There was nothing the Argentine could have done to stop it.
However, United trailed for only a couple of minutes. Some sloppy passing from LASK allowed Mata to send Lingard scampering through on goal, and the midfielder showed uncharacteristic calmness in slotting a low shot underneath the goalkeeper to restore the Reds’ five-goal aggregate lead.
Largely thanks to United’s lack of precision in the final third, it looked likely to prove the last real action of the match. However, substitute Martial wanted in on the action, and netted a winner in the final few minutes of the match. He dribbled straight through the middle of a weak LASK defence, and though goalkeeper Alexander Schlager got a touch on the Frenchman’s shot, he was unable to keep it out.
The game finished 2-1 on the night and 7-1 on aggregate, sealing United’s progression into the quarterfinal. They’ll face FC Copenhagen at the RheinEnergieSTADION in Cologne in five days’ time, as United play their first game under the coronavirus-enforced, one-game, winner-takes-all rules.