UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg
Manchester United vs. Liverpool
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: Thursday, 17 March 2016
Kick-off: 20:05 GMT
Manchester United exited the Europa League with a 3-1 aggregate defeat to great rivals Liverpool after drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford in the second leg.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg at Anfield last Thursday, Anthony Martial’s first half penalty looked to have given United a way back into the tie.
That hope all but ended with Philippe Coutinho’s delightful dink on the stroke of half-time, a crucial away goal that meant United needed another three, with no more arriving before the final whistle.
On the front foot, United pushed forward with Marcos Rojo’s cross finding Jesse Lingard whose header was well-saved, with Juan Mata volleying wide from eight yards after Chris Smalling’s header dropped kindly for the Spaniard.
Cutting inside onto his favoured right foot, Martial fired over, with David De Gea denying Coutinho and Roberto Firmino at the other end with low saves.
Martial then won the penalty after being fouled by Nathaniel Clyne, and the Frenchman tucked his spot-kick away to give United a lifeline.
Despite United seemingly having the momentum after taking the lead, it was Liverpool who looked the more likely, with Daniel Sturridge striking the crossbar from his free-kick and Jordan Henderson curling an effort just over after a one-two with Coutinho.
Daley Blind hooked a long ball forward which Marouane Fellaini pulled back before the ball went out of play, but Rojo converted his chance wide under the challenge of Mamadou Sakho.
As half-time approached, Coutinho was allowed acres of space to run into before beating Guillermo Varela with ease, with the move finished off by an exquisite dink to give Liverpool that all-important away goal.
After the break and Rashford shot wide off-balance from Mata’s cross, with Fellaini seeing a header held from Michael Carrick’s cross.
Martial then fired over after a neat give-and-go with Lingard before Fellaini did likewise from Rashford’s pull back, much to the dismay of the Old Trafford crowd.
Liverpool’s goalscorer Coutinho then saw a shot held and another parried over the bar, before curling a free-kick over as well.
Lingard was off target with De Gea twice denying substitute Divock Origi late on, with both sides knowing that the tie was over.
Unlike last week, United actually showed some effort, desire and graft in this fixture, deserving their lead and looking like altering the shape of the game.
However, naïve play to concede a sloppy goal, so soon before the interval, cost United in the second leg, but ultimately, failing to turn up at Anfield and surrendering a 2-0 lead to a rejuvenated Liverpool side under Jurgen Klopp proved to be the downfall.
With no European football left for the season and a tricky FA Cup replay away at West Ham United next month, a lot rides on this Sunday’s Manchester derby, when anything bar victory would significantly reduce United’s slim chances of reaching the top four.
Not only would a win close the gap to one point to City, the feel-good factor surrounding such hypothetical scenario would give the team a lift heading into the season’s climax.
It’s a big test to see where this side is at mentally and physically, and kick-off commences at 4pm at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester United: De Gea; Varela (Valencia 46), Smalling, Blind, Rojo (Darmian 63); Carrick (Schweinsteiger 70), Fellaini; Lingard, Mata, Martial; Rashford.
Subs: Romero, Valencia, Darmian, Williams, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Memphis.
Manager: Louis van Gaal
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Milner; Henderson (Allen 71), Can; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino (Benteke 85); Sturridge (Origi 67).
Subs: Ward, Toure, Smith, Allen, Benteke, Origi, Ibe.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp