Ahead of our Europa League group stage game against Partizan Belgrade on Thursday, we take a look at five historic battles we have had in the competition. Who cannot forget winning the trophy back in 2017, Rashford scoring two goals on his debut to Zlatan getting his first hat-trick for the club.
1. Ajax 0-2 Manchester United (Europa League Final), 24th May 2017
United had not managed to claim 4th place in the Premier League, which meant going into the Europa League final against Ajax that we had to win it in order to get into the following season’s Champions League. It was an emotional night in Stockholm for United fans as we went on to complete the set of major trophies in our collection.
United started the game well and on the eighteenth minute Paul Pogba gave us the lead when his shot was deflected by Davison Sanchez to go pass the Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana into the net. It was in this game that Pogba’s showed flashes of his brilliance and justifying why United had gone out and spent the £89 million to bring him back to the club.
It could have easily been 2-0 after the twenty third minute when Antonio Valencia used his pace to burst down the right hand side to take on Jaïro Riedewald before his powerful shot was saved by Onana.
Into the second half and with United holding a one goal lead, the second goal came from a Juan Mata’s corner as Chris Smalling headed the ball down into the box for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to flick the ball passed defender Joël Veltman and beyond Andre Onana into the net to send the United fans into wild celebrations.
United had a couple of more chances to increase the lead through Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard only to be saved by Onana and a last ditch tackle from Davison Sanchez.
When the final whistle was blown in the Friends Arena and as United fans celebrated, there were chants of ‘Manchester’ in tribute to those who had died in the Manchester Arena attacks two days previously.
By winning the Europa League, United became the fifth club to claim the full set of European trophies in a list that included Ajax, Chelsea, Juventus and Bayern Munich.
2. Manchester United 5-1 FC Midtjylland (Europa League Round 32), 25th February 2016
United were coming into this game having suffered a 2-1 defeat in the first leg and even before a ball was kicked Anthony Martial pulled his hamstring in the warm up. This meant, 18 year old Marcus Rashford was elevated to the starting eleven who certainly made an impact on his debut.
It looked like United would be heading out of the competition when on the twenty-eighth minute that Pione Sisto put Midtjylland into the lead to give them a 3-1 advantage on the night. United hit straight back to equalise as Bodurov turn the ball into his own net after slicing Memphis Depay’s cutback. We then had a penalty after Ander Herrera was tripped by Kian Hansen but Juan Mata’s shot was saved by Mikkel Andersen.
Into the second half and up stepped Manchester born Marcus Rashford, who from the seven yards away put the ball into the net from Juan Mata’s pass to give United the lead. He then got his second of the match when he volleyed the ball into the goal to put United 3-1 (4-3 on aggregate) up on the night.
Ander Herrera then added a fourth followed by Memphis Depay’s sweet strike into the left corner of the goal to make it 5-1 (6-3 on aggregate) and send United into the last 16 of the competition.
This game will go down as one of the great European nights at Old Trafford and also seeing the emergence of Marcus Rashford, who would then three days later scored two goals on his Premier League debut against Arsenal.
3. Manchester United 1-1 Celta Vigo (Europa League Semi Final), 11th May 2017
United came into the second leg of the Europa League semi final against Celta Vigo following a 1-0 win against them thanks to a well taken goal from a Marcus Rashford free kick. It was a tense night at Old Trafford as we looked to reach the final. Before this game, United had never lost a two-legged European tie after winning the first leg away from home.
It was a nervous start as Celta Vigo made the better attacks in the first fifteen minutes before Marcus Rashford’s cross into the far post was met by the head of Marouane Fellaini to put the home side up, giving us a 2-0 aggregate lead. There were a couple more chances created by United as they aimed to frustrate the visitors as Henrikh Mkhitaryan stinging shot in the second half from outside the box was saved by goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez.
Celta Vigo’s Facundo Roncaglia then scored a header on the eighty-fifth minutes to put the Old Trafford faithful on edge. Then, Roncaglia and Eric Bailly were both sent off after a melee between both sets of the players.
John Guidetti could have knocked United out of the competition but in the ninety-fifth minute he scuffed his shot whilst in the six yard box, which Michael Carrick then cleared. The referee blew the whistle to send United through to the final with the fans erupting into celebrations. The players were cheered off as the fans chanted ‘United are going to Stockholm’.
4. Manchester United 3-0 Saint-Etienne (Europa League Round 32), 16th February 2017
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s first hat-trick for United ensured that we had one foot in the last 16 of the Europa League after victory over Saint-Etienne. This game also saw Paul Pogba go up against his brother Florentin who was playing for the opposition. Saint-Etienne were well organised and presented a dangerous threat, none more than especially in the first two minutes into the game when Eric Bailly back pass put United in trouble but goalkeeper Sergio Romero recovered well to keep out the chance.
Zlatan got the first of his three goals after 15 minutes into the first half when his free kick deflected from underneath Saint-Etienne wall wrong footing their goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier to go into the net.
Into the second half, Zlatan got his second of the game after seventy-five minutes by tapping the ball into the net when great work from Marcus Rashford on the left side who crossed the ball towards Ibrahimovic.
Zlatan sealed the victory and completed his hat-trick when he was fouled in the box and slotted home the subsequent penalty kick.
5. Manchester United 4-1 Fenerbahce (Europa League Group Stage), 20th October 2016
This game saw former United player Robin Van Persie makes his return to Old Trafford since leaving us in the summer of 2015. United produced an excellent display to put away the team from Turkey. Paul Pogba put us into the lead by converting a penalty kick after Juan Mata had been fouled in the box by Simon Kjaer.
United were awarded a second penalty when Martial was fouled in the box, who then duly converted from the spot to extend the lead. Pogba grabbed his second goal of the match by curling a shot from 20 yards away into the top corner of the net as we went into half-time with a three goal lead.
Second half, United retained control of the match as they looked to see out the victory. Jesse Lingard added a fourth after drilling the ball into the corner of the net to score his first European goal. Robin Van Persie added a consolation goal for the visitors, with the United fans rising to give our former player a standing ovation.