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Manchester United's sweet 16 as Chelsea and Celts hit sour note

 

By John Andrew

Manchester United are on course to make the last 16 of the Champions League after defeating Benfica 2-0 at Old Trafford last night, while Brendan Rodgers' Celtic are heading to the Europa League following a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich.

It is also proved to be a bad night for Chelsea, whose progression was left in doubt as they were hammered 3-0 away to Roma.

Nemanja Matic and Daley Blind, from the penalty spot, were on target for United whose boss Jose Mourinho commented: "I am more than happy. We changed a lot of players, we broke the natural dynamic and routines of the team and we played a kid, Scott McTominay, from the academy.

"We scored two goals, did not concede, gained three more points, more money for the club, because every victory means money, and did not have any significant injuries.

“It is better for the specialists to comment on the game than for me to give my opinion. I am paid to do my work, which I do, and the specialists comment. Let them do that.”

Nemanja Matic said United need to remain focused until qualification for the Champions League knockout stage is absolutely certain.

Benfica’s teenage goalkeeper Mile Svilar scored an own goal when Matic’s shot hit the post and rebounded onto him before Daley Blind fired in a second-half penalty, leaving United needing just one point from their final two games.

“We have to be focused until the end,” Matic said. “We have to fight in the last two games and we will go to win both games. I’m sure the team is ready.”

Romelu Lukaku, whose scoreless streak extended to six games, had wanted to take the penalty won by Marcus Rashford in the 77th minute, but was overruled first by Ander Herrera and then Blind.

“I’m not sure,” Matic said when asked what happened. “I think the manager decided that Daley needed to shoot.”

There was a first Champions League start for 20-year-old Scott McTominay, who has been at United since the age of five.

He said: “As a young boy growing up you dream of the Champions League and playing for Manchester United. It’s a dream for me and I’m made up we’ve got three points and the clean sheet.”

• Manager Simon Grayson has left Sunderland after a 3-3 Sky Bet Championship draw with Bolton, the club have announced.

His departure was confirmed after Paddy McNair’s late equaliser spared them the ignominy of slipping to the foot of the table.

A statement said: “The club would like to thank Simon.”

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