Manchester United registered their first Europa League win this season with a 2-0 victory away to Sheriff Tiraspol.
A cool finish from Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 699th career club goal were enough to see the Red Devils bounce back after losing their opening group stage contest to Real Sociedad last week.
Sheriff had their tails up early on having won their opening game in the competition last week, and knowing they managed to beat Real Madrid in the Champions League last season. But they were unable to prove giant killers again, succumbing to a professional United performance in the two clubs’ first competitive meeting.
It took some time for United to truly work their way into the game despite spells of possession, with Sheriff not afraid to press high up early on.
Their wingers barely saw the ball as a result in the opening stages, but when Jadon Sancho did get involved for essentially the first time after 17 minutes, he tucked away a brilliant goal following sublime footwork and a smart pass from Christian Eriksen.
Sheriff did cause United problems when they got on the ball with Iyayi Atiemwen impressing, not being afraid to try and test David de Gea where possible. They had a clear plan to stifle United when the visitors tried to attack, though, committing fouls to stop them progressing the ball.
As the half grew on, those fouls became more common as United found a stride when in possession. Antony latched onto a poor pass from the goalkeeper and fed Sancho on the left, who was denied a brace by a brilliant clearance off the line from captain Stjepan Radeljic
Unfortunately, his brilliant clearance meant little as a minute later, Diogo Dalot was fouled inside the penalty area, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to make it 2-0 from the spot after 39 minutes. His first goal of the season sent United into half-time in a strong position.
Erik ten Hag’s side remained firmly in the driver’s seat after the break, with Sheriff unable to win the ball back from United and break up their lengthy spells of possession.
Eriksen peeled off to the left flank after 56 minutes and floated a fine, low cross across the box, but more brilliant defending from Radeljic diverted the ball away from Ronaldo and denied him of his 700th career club goal.
Sheriff, while not doing enough to test De Gea, gave a solid account of themselves and did continue to try and burst forward in the latter stages of the game. United were well-drilled, though, and diffused any counter attacks confidently, while looking after possession to see out the result.
GK: David de Gea – 6/10 – Quiet night at the office for the Spaniard, who merely had to stand and look pretty for the most part.
RB: Diogo Dalot – 7/10 – Won the penalty that put United two up with the kind of positive run from deep that really hurts teams. A positive performance that showed again just how much Dalot has come on under Ten Hag.
CB: Raphael Varane – 6/10 – A composed performance from the Frenchman. Didn’t have much to do, but kept things neat and tidy.
CB: Lisandro Martinez – 6/10 – Having a central defender who is not only comfortable bringing the ball forward but is agile and can actively pick out line-splitting passes continues to prove a huge boost for United. Martinez’s work on the ball was the highlight tonight.
LB: Tyrell Malacia – 6/10 – Grew into the game as United enjoyed more of the ball and looked solid when able to get forward. Not as involved as he perhaps would’ve liked to have been, mind.
CM: Scott McTominay – 6/10 – Another impressive display from the Scotland international who continues to go full ‘McTerminator’ in an attempt to keep his place in the team. Only played the first half, though, so nothing major to report.
CM: Christian Eriksen – 8/10 – He’s good is that Eriksen fella, isn’t he? Like, really good. Always on for the pass, and always capable of picking out the perfect pass. What a lovely footballer.
CM: Bruno Fernandes – 7/10 – Showed off his brilliant passing range and a few sharp touches in tight areas. Not quite as gung-ho as usual; if there was ever a game to try your luck from long range with the space afforded, though, it was this one.
RW: Antony – 6/10 – Flashes of flair and excellence from the Brazilian, in a much improved display compared to last week’s affair vs Real Sociedad. Not at his scintillating, ankle-breaking best just yet, but the signs are there.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo – 6/10 – Yes he scored from the spot and no he wasn’t horrific, but Ronaldo’s touch wasn’t sharp, his runs were slow and he looked sluggish. Concerning. Props to him for doing that celebration, though – shameless.
LW: Jadon Sancho – 8/10 – Took his goal brilliantly with his first proper touches of the game. Individual brilliance denied him of a brace. When he gets the ball inside, Sancho is endlessly composed. Brilliant footwork again.
SUB: Casemiro (45′ for McTominay) – 6/10 – Continued more of the solid work McTominay did at the base of midfield and broke up any rare counter attacks well.
SUB: Luke Shaw (70′ for Malacia) – N/A
SUB: Anthony Elanga (80′ for Ronaldo) – N/A
SUB: Harry Maguire (90′ for Martinez) – N/A
SUB: Alejandro Garnacho (90′ for Antony) – N/A
Manager: Erik ten Hag – 8/10 – Away victory, good performance and a clean sheet. The Dutchman clearly prepared the team well. Would’ve been nice to see United open the floodgates, but we can’t be too harsh. Job done.