Anderlecht 1-1 Man United: Late Dendoncker Strike Denies Win for Wasteful United

Anderlecht 1-1 Man United: Late Dendoncker Strike Denies Win for Wasteful United
Photo Credit To @Squawka

An equaliser in the dying minutes by Dendoncker means it’s still all to play for in the second leg of the Europa quarterfinals next week at Old Trafford.

Manchester United were yet again left bewildered and disappointingly short of victory when Leander Dendoncker rose high to power in an 86th minute equaliser, giving Anderlecht real hope of progressing to the Europa semifinals in the return leg at Old Trafford. It’s been a familiar story all season for Jose Mourinho’s side. And with Europe’s second-tier club championship possibly their only viable route back into the premier one, the club will be anxious to set things right next week when Anderlecht visit.

Despite allowing a couple of early chances for the hosts, it was United who started the better of the two. They controlled most of the first half, eventually scoring the opener in the 36th when Mkhitaryan finished off a saved Rashford attempt. The Armenian has now scored in four successive away games in the competition. And in the absence of Mata, it’s his creative fizz up front that keeps United ticking in attack.

Anderlecht, however, were not done. The Belgian league-leaders started the second half aggressively, putting a few attempts in at goal within minutes of the restart. United eventually regained some control, but again missed clear chances to put the game to rest. Mkhitaryan and Pogba were the primary culprits – the Armenian missing with his hooked shot, and Pogba drawing a one-on-one save. And they paid for it in the end as Dendoncker came out the blue to cancel out Mkhitaryan’s goal.

Mkhitaryan’s first half strike, however, does give United a slender advantage in terms of an away goal. And playing at Old Trafford should be daunting prospect for Anderlecht, apart from contending with a United that has a point to prove. It all depends now on how United turn up next Thursday.

Manchester United still struggling to translate dominance into victories

In a season strewn with missed opportunities, dropped points and late capitulations, Jose Mourinho will be desperate for the Europa lifeline that will allow his side to play Champions League football next season. And, perhaps as crucially, make the sort of recruitments he’s been hoping to make in the summer. For undoubtedly, the stars Mourinho has his sights on will have Champions League football as a priority if they’re to move to Old Trafford.

But with United’s continued struggles with finishing threatening to derail even this alternative route to Europe’s premier club competition, the United manager appears particularly prickled with his squad. And in particular his forwards. Thursday’s quarterfinal too was riddled with missed opportunities for United to stamp their authority on the game. Lingard missed a golden chance just over a quarter of an hour in when he failed to tuck the ball in from close range, hitting the post much to Mourinho’s consternation. Rashford and Mkhitaryan too missed chances, though not as clear-cut as Lingard’s, before the Armenian’s opener.

It’s hard to pin down the problem with United’s misfiring strikers. Rashford, though not as prolific as last season, was a livewire last night. He failed to latch-on to a brilliant Pogba pass early on. But his first-time strike that eventually Mkhitaryan snuck in was a good one. And he was a handful for the Anderlecht defence on the left wing. United’s over-reliance on Ibrahimovic aside, they can hardly lean too heavily on the 19-year old Rashford. Martial drifts in and out of form regularly. Mata and Mkhitaryan are essentially No.10s. And with Rooney out of the picture, there are few other options for Mourinho in terms of a genuine 20+ goals a season striker to lead the lines.

Post-match reactions

Choosing not to focus on the goal by Dendoncker, United boss Jose Mourinho put the blame squarely on his forwards:

“If I was a United defender I would be very upset with the attacking players because they have to kill the game and they didn’t. The result should be much better and we can only blame ourselves because we had an easy game to play in the second half and didn’t play in attack with that [killer] instinct.

“We lost the ball easily too many times, we stopped our counter attacks because of sloppy touches, sloppy decisions. And then we gave them the opportunity to have some counter attacks. Luckily our defenders were very much in the game and they resolved all these problems.

“You have to play more seriously. We put all together the performance of two or three of our attacking players and you squeeze not much juice out of it and the people behind were not focused.”

Anderlecht manager René Weiler was quite happy with the late twist courtesy of Dendoncker:

“It’s a good result against a very good team. We had difficulties in the first half, Manchester defended very well. But in the second half, we showed a lot of courage.

It was great for the team but also for the public. The team gave everything, I am proud of them today. ”

On United’s missed opportunities:

“They had a lot of action in front of goal, but it did not succeed today.”

On the prospects for the second leg at Old Trafford:

“We have another match before that against Ostend. But then we will be well prepared for the quarterfinal. We saw the qualities of Manchester United, we must now play there with great joy.”

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