Bruno Fernandes shone and Manchester United fan Odion Ighalo netted his first goal for the club as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men roared past 10-man Club Brugge in the Europa League.
Anthony Martial saved United’s blushes on a wet and windy night in Belgium last week, with his away goal securing a 1-1 draw that gave his side the upper hand heading into the second leg of the round-of-32 fixture.
A muscle injury sustained on the eve of the game meant the France forward missed the return fixture, but Ighalo proved an able deputy by scoring in-between Fernandes and Scott McTominay goals on a night when Fred’s brace wrapped up a comprehensive 5-0 win.
United progressed to the last 16 with a 6-1 aggregate victory – an outcome Club Brugge head coach Philippe Clement feared ahead of the match, admitting his absentee-hit side needed “something bigger than a miracle” to go through.
The incline on that uphill battle got even steeper midway through the first half when defender Simon Deli received his marching orders for inexplicably denying Daniel James’ strike with a one-handed save.
Fernandes coolly converted the resulting penalty after a four-and-a-half-minute wait caused by a surprising, and unsuccessful, VAR review, with deadline-day signing Ighalo quickly compounding matters when tapping in to open his account.
Fernandes was involved in that move, just as the midfielder was when collecting possession before McTominay struck on his first start since injuring his knee on Boxing Day.
United took their foot off the gas in the second half and the Portuguese was replaced by Jesse Lingard, who laid off for Fred to net his first goal of the season before the Brazil midfielder completed the rout with another in stoppage time.
Solskjaer’s side looked sharp from the outset on Thursday, with Harry Maguire and Juan Mata having attempts before former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet tipped a Fernandes attempt onto the post.
All those chances came in a frantic opening three minutes that also saw Club Brugge threaten, with Maguire looking fortunate not to be penalised for grabbing David Okereke inside the box.
United were again breathing a sigh of relief when Mats Rits lifted over a goal that Sergio Romero left open when punching clear under pressure, but Club Brugge would soon unravel.
Only Deli will know why he met James’ effort with an outstretched arm, leading referee Serdar Gozubuyuk to point to the spot and show a red card.
There was widespread confusion when video assistant referee advised the official to check the sending off, but the decision stood and Fernandes coolly slotted home the spot-kick after a delay.
That moment extinguished any hope of a shock and United quickly raced ahead.
Fernandes, impressing in red yet again, clipped a lovely pass over to Mata, whose cutback was directed home from close range by Ighalo.
The Nigeria striker dropped to his knees and pointed at the sky in celebration – an effort a Mignolet save prevented him from quickly adding to on the turn.
But United now had the bit between their teeth and McTominay got in on the act four minutes before the break.
You love to see it.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 27, 2020
Fernandes snaffled possession in the corner and laid back to Fred, who teed up the returning midfielder to bury a passed finish from the edge of the box.
The half-time break took the sting out of proceedings and Fernandes left the field to a standing ovation in the 65th minute.
Solskjaer turned to Lingard and the attacking midfielder would get a much-needed assist when cutting back for Fred to score as the clock wound down.
Lingard saw a late shot saved before fellow substitutes Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood fired inches wide, with Fred smashing home in stoppage time as a largely quiet second half ended with a bang.
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