Marcus Rashford displayed a welcoming blend of confidence and arrogance in the seconds before his match-winning goal that gave Manchester United a 1-0 buffer heading into their Europa League semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo.
United once again looked to be heading for a frustrating draw despite dominating both possession and the number of chances created at the Estadio de Balaidos. That was until they were awarded a free-kick just outside the Vigo area in the 67th minute, and despite Paul Pogba being the recognised set-piece taker in the side, Rashford stepped up.
The young England striker deceived Vigo goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez, who took a step to his left to try and cover the space behind the wall, as Rashford curled the ball to the ‘keeper’s right to secure a 1-0 victory that puts United in control heading into next week’s second leg.
Having allowed Rashford to take the free-kick, Pogba revealed after the game that the striker had told him he would score it seconds before taking it, something that left the world’s most expensive player impressed.
“On the pitch, we don't look at the age. He's been doing great this season and we trust him,” Pogba told BT Sport after the match.
“When he took that free-kick, he told me he was going to score and he put it in so that's the most important thing.
“We had a lot of chances, it's happened a lot of times this season, but we have to carry on working on it and keep creating chances.”
Pogba made reference to United’s wasted chances as it has been a running theme throughout this season, with United drawing seventeen matches in all competitions this season, something that has seen them slip out of the Premier League top four and require a focus on the Europa League in order to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
United’s Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera, who hails from the northern Basque region of Bilbao, urged caution though and stressed that Vigo remain a dangerous side ahead of the second leg.
“It's not so easy to control the game against this team, they score almost every game,” Herrera said. “They have a lot of creative players and we have controlled the game.
“We have created a few good chances and Marcus scored a fantastic goal.
“We have to play at Old Trafford but we have done nothing yet, we have to play another 90 minutes and they are a good team.
“We have to respect them because it is the first time they have played a European semi-final in their history and they are going to give everything at Old Trafford.”
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