Manchester United recorded the first win of their Europa League campaign on Thursday, seeing off FC Sheriff 2-0 in Tiraspol. It was a good response to the opening-day defeat to Real Sociedad, with first-half goals from Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo enough to see off the Moldovan Super Liga champions.
Erik ten Hag made five changes to the side that lost at home to Real Sociedad, fielding something close to a full-strength side. David de Gea kept his place in front of United’s now-standard back four, Scott McTominay edged out Casemiro to retain his starting berth alongside Christian Eriksen, Antony and Jadon Sancho flanked Bruno Fernandes, and Cristiano Ronaldo started alone up front.
The game got off to a pedestrian start, with neither side threatening in the first 15 minutes. However, United soon broke the deadlock, slicing straight through the middle of the Sheriff defence after their first sustained spell of pressure. Christian Eriksen offloaded to Jadon Sancho, who wriggled free of a couple of a couple of defenders before driving a low, left-footed shot in off the far post. It was a fine finish, and a good response to his omission from Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the forthcoming international games.
Sheriff looked bereft of ideas, save for peppering de Gea’s goal with speculative long-range efforts. They caused the Spaniard no problems, and United found themselves 2-0 up just over five minutes before halftime. Seconds after Sheriff captain Stjepan Radeljić had scrambled back to make a heroic goalline clearance, his teammate Patrick Kpozo clumsily sent Diogo Dalot tumbling in the box. The referee pointed to the spot, and Ronaldo swiftly converted, slotting the ball calmly into the centre of the goal.
United dominated the opening minutes of the second half, and would’ve gone 3-0 up had Radeljić not intervened to to prevent Ronaldo tapping in a low Eriksen cross at the far post. They comfortably controlled possession for the remainder, with de Gea barely having to lift a finger between the sticks. It wasn’t the most spectacular of performances, but it was a thoroughly professional job from ten Hag’s men.