Edinson Cavani brace helps Man United finish job as they go one step closer to silverware

A year-plus of semi-final defeats ended with a sprinkling of second leg drama
Edinson Cavani brace helps Man United finish job as they go one step closer to silverware

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shakes hands with Edinson Cavani

Roma 3 Man Utd 2 (Man Utd win 8-5 on aggregate)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally got his wish to concentrate on matters on the field, rather than demonstrations and fan violence off it, and, more importantly, fulfilled a dream of leading Manchester United into his first major final.

A year-plus of semi-final defeats ended with a sprinkling of second leg drama against Roma but, crucially, another two goals in what is becoming an impressive second half to the campaign by veteran Edinson Cavani.

Now a Europa League final date with Villarreal awaits in the Polish city of Gdansk on May 26, with around 9,500 fans expected to be in attendance.

It takes Solskjaer to within 90 minutes of his first silverware two and a half years into his reign. For all of the chaos and negative political energy swirling around the club at the moment, make no mistake, their manager is quietly rebuilding United as a credible trophy contender.

But Roma did as much as they could reasonably have been expected to do in terms of their approach in a mission impossible of a second leg and United briefly wobbled around the hour mark, conceding twice in two minutes after Cavani had shot them ahead.

On 57 minutes, a shot from Pedro bounced into the ground and former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko was unmarked and headed in from less than six yards.

And almost immediately, Roma were ahead on the night when Fred was caught in possession by Lorenzo Pellegrini and he set up Bryan Cristante to score with a marvellous curling shot.

Worse could have followed, but for some superb keeping from David de Gea whose vintage performance steadied an astonishingly inept spell in which United could have conceded with almost every Roma attack.

First he made a superb double save from Dzeko’s header and Pedro’s follow-up before he, possibly inadvertently, managed to keep out Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s flick, which looked destined for the back of the net, with the inside of his leg.

A 4-1 Roma lead at that point and the Italians would have been a goal away from a most implausible victory, with more than half an hour to play, but on 68 minutes, United’s two best players combined to equalise.

Bruno Fernandes, whose immaculate level of play is now a given, curled in a beautiful cross for Cavani, who had timed his run to perfection, to sprint in unopposed and head home.

Roma found another late flurry, with Mkhitaryan hitting a post and teenage sub Nicola Zalewski scoring late, via a deflection off Alex Telles, in a thoroughly entertaining “dead rubber.” But Cavani’s first goal of the night, after he had played a role in five United goals in last week’s 6-2 first leg win, had been key.

It came after 38 minutes from a delightful Fernandes touch and defence-splitting pass from Fred which allowed Cavani to speed away and thump in an unstoppable shot.

Not that the Italians could be faulted for their approach and the tone was set when de Gea made an amazing point-blank reflex save from Gianluca Mancini after three minutes and Mkhitaryan headed into the side-netting seconds later.

Roma continued to press but this was playing into the hands of a United team who have, generally, been a stronger force away from home than at Old Trafford this season — and so they showed.

With Fernandes pulling the strings, Cavani lobbed a shot inches over the bar and onto the roof of the net and then blasted a powerful shot that was stopped bravely by Antonio Mirante and Mason Greenwood missed the target from good chances in each half.

ROMA (4-1-4-1): Mirante 7; Karsdorp 6, Smalling 6 (Darboe 29, 6), Ibanez 5, Bruno Peres 5 (Santon 69, 6); Mancini 7; Pedro 7 (Zalewski 76, 7), Cristante 6, Pellegrini 8, Mkhitaryan 6; Dzeko 7 (Mayoral 76, 5).

MAN UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 9; Wan-Bissaka 6 (Williams 45, 4) Bailly 7, Maguire 6, Shaw 5 (Telles 45, 5); van de Beek 5, Fred 6; Greenwood 6, Fernandes 8 (Mata 83), Pogba 6 (Matic 64, 6); Cavani 8 (Rashford 73, 6).

Referee: Dr F Brych (Germany) 6.

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