A stoppage-time winner from Scott McTominay edged Manchester United to a difficult win over Omonia Nicosia on Thursday night, with the Cypriots putting up a resilient fight against Erik Ten Hag’s men.
McTominay had already had two chances after coming on as an 81st-minute substitute, so it was third time lucky for the Scotsman with a low, powerful strike from the centre of the box after being teed up by Jadon Sancho, also introduced in the second half.
The statistics did not lie for the European clash; 78% possession and a whopping 34 shots were reflective of United’s dominance from the first minute to the last. It has to be said, though, it was a frustrating watch for fans who saw their side scupper some golden opportunities.Embed from Getty Images
The first chance came early on for Marcus Rashford, who saw a powerful effort from a corner saved by Francis Uzoho- a lifelong fan of the Red Devils. The winger had another effort well saved twenty minutes later after being teed up by Bruno Fernandes inside the area.
Fernandes and Rashford both blazed shots just wide from distance before the half-hour mark before Casemiro’s pot shot rattled the crossbar minutes later. Fred squandered a header in space after a pin-point Antony cross, and it was just not happening for the home side.
Omonia’s very own Bruno failed to square it across goal on the breakaway, instead shooting over the bar, much to the fury of Neil Lennon before half-time.
The second half saw Antony, Rashford, Fred, McTominay and Cristiano Ronaldo all denied by Uzoho, who later admitted to having the game of his life in his post-match presser.Embed from Getty Images
The resistance was eventually broken through McTominay’s strike, which truly spared red blushes as a sigh of relief was let out around Old Trafford.
Man of the matchEmbed from Getty Images
Casemiro stood out again in that central defensive midfield role just as he did in the Premier League last time out.
In a game where the attackers failed to do their job, the Brazilian helped set the tempo for his side to dominate against I Basilissa (The Queen), often transitioning the ball well from the defence to the attack.
He could have even had one himself after the half-hour mark when his shot was faintly tipped onto the crossbar.
Back-to-back man-of-the-match awards reflect Casemiro’s great contribution to the team in the last week, and it is nothing more than what the 30-year-old deserves.
McTominay is another shout for man of the match for obvious reasons, but he was only on the pitch for fifteen minutes.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
Ten Hag will be glad to have got the win, but he will have by no means been impressed. Omonia are hardly a strong outfit, and even though they defended like their lives depended on it, you would expect the Reds to be putting a few goals past that side.
The top teams would have brushed a team like that to one side, so there has to be an improvement. Consistency needs bettering. It felt like the effort level was not what it was against Everton sheerly due to the small size of the opposition. 100% is needed every game and the big players need to be better than that and lead by example.
The result puts United second in the group and- should they beat Sheriff Tiraspol at home on matchday 5- the chance to finish in top spot remains. It will be all to play for on matchday 6 away at Real Sociedad.
Remember- 2nd place means a play-off to get into the knockout stages, the opponent being a 3rd place Champions League team.
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Newcastle United, taking place this Sunday 16th October at 14:00 (BST).
After that is another home game in the Premier League. United face Spurs on Wednesday 19th October at 20:15 (BST).