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Football News

Fernades secure Manchester United ticket into the ECL semi-final with a late scorer

Manchester United needed an extra-time penalty from Bruno Fernandes to finally see off a spirited FC Copenhagen and set up a potential Europa League semi-final against Wolves.

United were poor for much of the first half in the heat of Cologne but still had a penalty overturned and a goal ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side improved and dominated the second half but could find no way past inspired goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson, with Fernandes and Mason Greenwood also each hitting the post and Marcus Rashford having another effort disallowed.

Fernandes finally broke through in familiar style, keeping cool to drive in United’s 21st spot-kick of the season at the start of the extra period to extend their marathon season by another week.

Johnsson was magnificent between the posts for Copenhagen – ending the night with 13 saves as United rained down 26 efforts on goal all told – while the Danish runners-up failed to have a single shot on target.

United – who won this competition four seasons ago – will now face either Premier League rivals Wolves or Europa League specialists Sevilla in the last four in Dusseldorf on Sunday night.

No way past for United

Three hundred and sixty-four days after Solskjaer started his first full season in charge of United, he is now two games away from a possible first trophy.

The January signing of Fernandes has already delivered a third-placed finish and Champions League football and the Portuguese midfielder was again the eventual difference maker on a draining night in scorching heat.

The temperature was still 32C at kick-off at 9pm local time and United made a poor start – Fred’s error almost letting in Mohammed Daramy, before Brandon Williams had to head away from the goal-line.

But despite their lethargy, United always carried a threat and were briefly awarded a penalty for a shove at a set-piece before VAR flagged an offside in the build-up.

Greenwood finished brilliantly off the far post but the strike was correctly called back for another offside before Solskjaer witnessed a far better second half.

Greenwood fired against the post again, with his left foot this time, Rashford tapping in but again from an offside position before Fernandes thundered a shot against the opposite post from range.

Johnsson’s individual showreel then threatened to throw a spanner in the works.

Perhaps the Swedish keeper’s best save denied Anthony Martial, who eventually won the decisive penalty thanks to a push from former Brentford defender Andreas Bjelland.

Fernandes fired into the corner without his trademark hop on approach to ensure a 17th European semi-final for United.

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Football News

Fred names biggest Manchester United worry for the Europa League

Fred has warned Manchester United about their concentration levels ahead of the Europa League final tournament next week.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side booked their place in the last eight of the competition earlier this week when they defeated LASK Linz 2-1 at Old Trafford to secure a 7-1 win on aggregate.

United are set to face FC Copenhagen over a single leg in the quarter-finals on Monday with a potential semi-final encounter to take place on the Sunday.

Fred starred for United during their win in midweek but he has warned his side about the difficulties of playing straight knockout matches in Europe.

“I like playing all types of football, whether it’s a tournament or a points-based championship like the Premier League, but I think in tournaments you need to concentrate more,” the Brazilian told United Review.

“There are two important games, and a single match in the final. You have to make sure you’re highly prepared, you can’t make mistakes.

“In league football you still have the chance to recover, you make a mistake and lose the game you can still recover later in the competition.

“In tournaments if you lose a game by a certain margin of goals it’s difficult to come back. So you need to concentrate even more. I think that is what’s most important for us. That will be the biggest test.”

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Opinions

Manchester United is likely to have a new left winger

Seven is not the only famed squad number vacant at Manchester United. Anthony Martial requested the nine and relinquished the 11 but Bruno Fernandes is not a winger.

Jadon Sancho is but seven is more suitable for a right winger and 11 is traditionally reserved for the dribbler on the opposite flank. A number of United players are due squad number upgrades ahead of next season but Daniel James is unlikely to switch from 21 to 11.

The 11 reflects a first-team status and James lost that privilege at Tottenham in June. Mason Greenwood was recalled five days later against Sheffield United when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer settled on a first XI with a fluid and unpredictable front three. Greenwood then plundered five goals in three Premier League games.

You would not begrudge Greenwood inheriting the 11. He is left-footed, after all, and unlikely to fall by the wayside as another academy forward, Adnan Januzaj, did after he received the number from Ryan Giggs. The left flank is not Greenwood’s forte and United lack an eminent alternative to Marcus Rashford other than Martial, now their outright top scorer.