By Andy Hyslop
- Martial opener gives United hope
- Coutinho strike knocks the wind out of United’s sails
Manchester United were unable to overturn the two goal lead that Liverpool had earnt from the first-leg and were knocked at the round of 16, losing 3-1 on aggregate.
Having failed to score an away goal at Anfield last week and coming in to this game trailing by two goals, United were always facing a difficult task to reach the quarter-finals of Europa League.
The defeat means United have now been knocked out of both the Champions League and Europa League and now must focus on improving their league position and the FA Cup.
United knew they had to score the first goal if they had any chance in the tie and that came after 32 minutes when Martial converted the penalty he had won.
Before the award of the penalty, United had missed earlier opportunities to open the scoring through Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard.
The goal came when neat close control from Martial provoked Clyne into a clumsy challenge on the Frenchman. Who got up to calmly convert the spot-kick and bring United back into the tie.
Despite knowing they needed to score three to go though, United also knew they couldn’t afford to concede an away goal.
Liverpool had opportunities through both Sturridge and Henderson. Sturridge rattled United’s bar from a free-kick on the right-hand edge of the penalty. While Henderson could only clear the bar when played in by Coutinho and had only De Gea to beat.
With 43 minutes on the clock, Coutinho struck the match winning goal in the tie. The Brazilian attacked United down the left flank, going past Varela with ease before dinking the ball past De Gea from a tight angle.
Minutes United had missed an opportunity to level the tie at 2-2 when Rojo met a cross at the far post, only for Sakho to make a last ditch challenge on the Argentinian defender.
At half-time Varela was replaced by the returning Antonio Valencia and United began the half on the front foot once but never looked like they were going to score the three second-goals they needed.
Marouane Fellaini had several opportunities to score against his countryman Mignolet but could only head straight at the Liverpool keeper and then blazed a close-range effort over the bar.
Towards the end of the half, Liverpool started to create more opportunities and could have won the tie by a bigger margin.
The full-time whistle went and United’s European campaign was over for another season. If they had ben to finish some of their opportunities in front of goal it may have been a different story for Van Gaal’s men.
In the immediate future they must focus on the Manchester Derby on Sunday. A fixture that could prove crucial for both teams hopes of being in the Champions League next season.
Manchester United: De Gea, Varela (Valencia 46), Smalling, Blind, Rojo (Darmian 63), Carrick (Schweinsteiger 71), Fellaini, Lingard, Mata, Martial, Rashford Substitutes Not Used: Romero, Williams, Schneiderlin, Memphis