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Man Utd face Celta Vigo in semis

| 24.04.2017

Red Devils meet La Liga side in Europa League

Manchester United booked their place in the semi-finals of the Europa League with a win over Anderlecht on Thursday, but only just.

The Red Devils, who were dragged over hot coals by manager Jose Mourinho after missing a barrel-load of chances in the first-leg, weren’t too better in the second, needing extra-time to see off the Belgians at Old Trafford. Mkhitaryan opened the scoring, just as he did in the previous encounter, but that was cancelled out by a reply from Hanni on 32-minutes.

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Jose needs at least one new striker

The second-half failed to keep pace, with no goals scored, and United once again dominated the stats sheet – 60 per cent possession and 22 shots – without getting the desired result. Marcus Rashford, who inspired his side to a weekend win over Chelsea at The Theatre of Dreams, grabbed the winner, turning on the ball before unleashing a finish of real quality, sparing his employers the risky business of a penalty shoot-out.

Mourinho will again flag up some shocking work in the final-third at training this week, but is anyone listening? It doesn’t look like it, and the summer transfer window can’t come quick enough for the gaffer, with at least one proven goal scorer top of The Special One’s most-wanted list.

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Champions League dream still alive

United did get through however, and they remain in the hunt for a Europa League title that would gift them safe passage into next season’s Champions League. A competition that was written off earlier in the season now looks their best chance back into Europe’s elite, with the race for the top-four in the Premier League tightening up.

Man Utd will now face La Liga side Celta Vigo in the final-four. Spanish sides have a fearsome reputation in this competition, and the Champions League too, so the English reps will know they won’t get away with the same mistakes again.

With the numbers now down to four – United, Celta, Ajax and Lyon – things are getting serious. Jose looks to have been handed the easier of the three possible opponents in Friday’s draw, but that will count for nothing if they don’t perform over the course of two legs. Jose is a former winner of this tournament, with Porto, and Coral traders have him priced as odds-on favourite to get United over the line, currently chalked up at 4/5. Lyon lead the chasing pack at 9/4.

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Frank Monkhouse