VERDICT: United win should make their minds up about transfer targets
Behind the statue of Sir Matt Busby at Old Trafford a resplendent banner now reads, ‘As the Reds go marching on, on, on’ and glory may soon return to Manchester United.
Progression through to the quarter-finals was already assured prior to their final home match of a never-ending season that began almost a year ago to the day and the winning mentality was not compromised. United are still undefeated at Old Trafford since January 22, a time before Bruno Fernandes.
At one stage, this was in danger of rivalling United’s most infamous round-of-16 home performance in recent memory. Sevilla was far more significant and this was the polar opposite, with LASK unfussed about building on their brief lead. Yet Ole Gunnar Solskjaer maintained the integrity of the competition by introducing Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, the matchwinner.
The Under-18 captain Teden Mengi eventually emerged and became the eighth academy graduate debutant for United in a single season, which last happened in 1952-53 – the campaign of Duncan Edwards, Bill Foulkes, and Dennis Viollet with United champions for the first time under Matt Busby.
Rather than immediately enliven the evening by introducing rookies and starting debutants, Solskjaer was too committed to the outfield squad players and few of them distinguished themselves at Norwich in June. James Garner and Mengi were benched and Ethan Laird in the stands but not the matchday squad. Tahith Chong bizarrely came on at left-back. Andreas Pereira was one of the first to warm up and come on, and actually showed eagerness. There were fireworks – let off outside the ground.