Man United beat Roma 8-5 on aggregate
Roma vs. Man United score, highlights: Cavani scores twice as Red Devils advance to Europa League final
The supporters marched on the stadium and the team marches on, on, on. Manchester United are within 90 minutes of clutching silverware, albeit a trophy there tone-deaf owners devalued a matter of weeks ago.
Despite a first final in three years, the football is secondary to the unrest at Old Trafford. OLE Gunnar Solskjaer was already presiding over a European campaign tainted by how they got there, the pandemic, a reduced capacity in the final and its insignificance compared to the make-or-break final in Stockholm in 2017. Then the Glazers rode roughshod over the glory.
That should not dilute the achievement of Man United reaching a ninth European final in their history. Solskjaer is only the fourth United manager to have done that, and they have overcome teams from Spain and Italy, rather than the far-flung fodder the Europa League is synonymous with.
Rome is not a city renowned for offering Man United or their supporter’s respite after violent nights in the stands of the Stadio Olimpico and on the infamous Ponte Milvio. Getting out of Man United at least ensured Man United could play a game.
Manchester United have exerted their superiority impressively in Europe since they fell down the Champions League trapdoor. It must smart for Solskjaer United would have relished encountering any of the Champions League semi-finalists, having beaten Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, and drawn with Chelsea FC twice this term. Their pursuit of a fourth European Cup will resume in September.
With five domestic fixtures just off the M6 to come, Manchester United’s preparations for the final are open to disruption by militant supporters emboldened by the postponement of the Liverpool fixture. For them, defeating the Glazers comes at any cost – including the team. Joel Glazer’s deadline to respond to the Man United Supporter’s Trust is looming.
But for David de Gea, A.S Roma might have returned from the dead. Ten times De Gea thwarted Roma in what was his finest performance in years to prevent Manchester United from becoming the latest victims of a modern memorable European comeback.
Solskjaer was culpable for increasing his workload by complacently withdrawing both full-backs at the interval. That compromised Manchester United’s stability, already jeopardized by the haphazard return of Eric Bailly next to Harry Maguire, and Roma led within 15 minutes of the restart.
De Gea’s denial of Pedro in the 61st minute at 2-1 ended Roma’s lingering belief. “Non ci credo!” exclaimed an Italian commentator. He could not believe it. Edinson Cavani levelled seven minutes later.
The Roma defence was as withdrawn as a French flotilla with Cavani in their waters. Cavani clipped the crossbar with a lob when he should have lashed the ball and overcompensated with his next efforts, flooring goalkeeper Antonio Miranta and then overpowering him for the 39th-minute breakthrough.
Cavani’s seven goals in six games are expected to precede an announcement confirming his renewal and that is looking to a more logical arrangement. If Erling Haaland is denied a transfer by Borussia Dortmund, his release clause will become active next summer and Harry Kane will be into the last two years of his Tottenham contract. The timing of the Cavani communiqué is compromised by the current climate in Manchester, where communication is still lacking with supporters.
United’s advantage in Rome was seemingly so unassailable Donny van de Beek received a start and again resembled a cellist at a rock concert. His incongruity was inevitable on a first start since March 21, and it took 15 minutes for Van de Beek to be shunted to the left. In a squad with Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Daniel James, the Dutchman’s future is not on the flank.
Withdraw Donny van de Beek, Eric Bailly and Mason Greenwood for Scott McTominay, Victor Lindelof and Marcus Rashford and United’s outfield starters for the final seems set. Between the sticks, De Gea reinforced his position as United’s European starter.
VAR would have intervened to address the handball but De Gea’s denial of Gianluca Mancini in the fourth minute was a throwback to the years when the Sir Matt Busby statue rested on his mantlepiece. Roma peppered the United goal with five efforts inside the first eight minutes and the scoreboard might as well have switched to ‘Roma 0-0 De Gea’. The Spaniard has also noticeably polished his distribution and was blameless for Edin Dzeko’s equalizer.
De Gea and Dean Henderson have each started in four Europa League ties, which only adds fuel to the goalkeeping debate for the final. Solskjaer ended a United ‘keeper’s career by dropping Sergio Romero for last year’s semi-final defeat to Sevilla in favour of his number one.
Romero, the number two on the previous occasion United reached the Europa League final in 2017, retained his berth while De Gea watched on. Recalling Henderson in Gdańsk would be a death knell for De Gea’s United career. Or he can have one last shot at glory.