Belfast Telegraph

Van Gaal is full of praise for his new hero Rashford

Manchester United 5-1 FC Midtjylland (Manchester United win 6-3 on aggregate)

By Mark Ogden

Marcus Rashford spared Manchester United from Europa League humiliation last night with the most impressive European debut in front of the Stretford End since a teenage Wayne Rooney's 2004 hat-trick against Fenerbahce.

Rashford had been due to start as a substitute until Anthony Martial's tweaked hamstring in the warm-up forced manager Louis van Gaal to throw the Manchester-born forward in at the deep end against FC Midtjylland.

But with two second-half goals to cap a hugely impressive performance, Rashford - succeeding George Best as United's youngest European goalscorer aged 18 years 117 days in the process - carried United into the last 16 and further eased the pressure on Van Gaal ahead of Sunday's Premier League visit of Arsenal.

The Dutchman was pleased with the second-half showing, particularly that of Rashford who took heed of some half-time advice.

On the youngster's performance, Van Gaal said: "Unbelievable. In the first-half he ran too much on the sidelines, and I said at half-time, 'You have to be within the width of the goal and you shall score,' and you see he scores two goals, it is fantastic for him.

"It was a great performance, the fans will have enjoyed our attacking football."

Whether it was the unusually small crowd, or the hangover from last week's 2-1 first-leg defeat in Denmark, there was an air of quiet.

But these are strange times at United and the personnel shortage that has ravaged Van Gaal's squad has clearly compromised the team.

But despite all of the problems facing Van Gaal, United still only needed to secure a 1-0 victory. For a club built on dramatic second-leg fightbacks against the likes of Barcelona and Juventus, beating FC Midtjylland 1-0 was hardly a challenge.

But United make hard work of things nowadays and so it proved against Jess Thorup's team, whose first-leg fightback, with goals from Pione Sisto and Paul Onuachu overturning Memphis Depay's opener, had given them the advantage coming into the return fixture.

United started brightly, with Depay showing pace and trickery down the left and Rashford playing with youthful confidence.

Jesse Lingard went closest to scoring an opener on 22 minutes, only for the ball to fly the wrong side of the side-netting. Five minutes later, Sisto breached United's defences once again to put Midtjylland 3-1 ahead on aggregate.

The Uganda-born forward made easy work of turning Daley Blind before evading a diving challenge from Michael Carrick to shoot low.

Falling behind sparked United into life, with Depay creating the equaliser five minutes later with a cross that was diverted into his own net by Nikolay Bodurov.

United's chance to level the tie came from the penalty spot, seconds after Morgan Schneiderlin hit the post.

Andre Romer's foul on Ander Herrera resulted in the penalty, but Mata's effort was woeful and easily saved.

But having kept their foot on the pedal, United finally levelled the tie on 63 minutes when Rashford marked his debut with a goal in front of the Stretford End.

Uruguayan full-back Guillermo Varela, who has also impressed during his recent run in the first team, made the goal by pulling the ball back for Rashford to calmly side-foot into the net.

With extra time looming, though, Varela once again broke through to cross for Rashford, whose goal put the game beyond the Danish champions before Herrera made it 4-1 with an 87th-minute penalty, moments before Romer was dismissed for a second booking.

Depay's long-range goal in the final minute capped an impressive display to ensure that United go into today's draw with hopes still alive of Champions League qualification via this competition.

Depay said: "We enjoyed it on the pitch and you could see that. We are very happy to go through, we have to keep the spirit in the team and look forward to Sunday."

Van Gaal is hoping for a repeat performance against Arsenal. He added: "The players have to recover, we have to cope and I hope it shall be a very good match."


MAN UTD: Romero, Varela, Carrick, Blind, Riley (Rojo, 79 mins), Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera (Poole, 90 mins), Lingard (Pereira, 67 mins) Mata, Depay, Martial. Subs not used: Castro, McNair, Love, Rashford.

Goals: Bodurov (og) 32, Rashford 63, 75, Herrera 87, Depay 90

MIDTJYLLAND: Andersen, Romer, Hansen, Bodurov, Novak, Sparv, Hassan (Kadlec, 67 mins), Poulsen, Olsson (Pusic, 79 mins), Sisto, Urena Porras (Onuachu, 46 mins). Subs not used: Dahlin, Banggaard, Bak Nielsen, Royer.

Goal: Sisto 27

Match rating: 8/10

Man of the match: Marcus Rashford (pictured)

Referee: Istvan Vad (Hungary)

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