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Champions League

Cavani masterclass sees Solskjaer’s side with one foot in Europa League final as Roma collapse


MANCHESTER UNITED fans may never get the chance to thank Edinson Cavani, but they will not forget him.

How fitting it would be if his last act in the famous red shirt would be to have the Europa League trophy in his hands, a winner yet again.

Edinson Cavani was simply superb in a stunning 6-2 victory over Roma

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Edinson Cavani was simply superb in a stunning 6-2 victory over RomaCredit: AP

Two goals, two assists and a penalty won was his contribution as United came back from 2-1 down to win this Europa League semi-final first leg tie 6-2.

No wonder manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is desperate for the 34-year-old legend of Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain to extend his stay by another season.

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Unfortunately he wants a return to South America, but before that he wants a trophy for Manchester United – and with this win they are all but in the final.

The hope for maybe 2,000 United fans is that they can be there too and the chance to sing Cavani’s name may come.

For Solskjaer his semi-final hoodoo as boss looks to be over having lost his previous four over this season and last.

That first trophy he dreams of is in sight now too and he has the players to finish the job.

Bruno Fernandes was on the mark again with two goals of his own and two assists, while Paul Pogba, excellent on the night despite conceding a penalty, headed home number five before Mason Greenwood rounded things of with the sixth.

What a night it was as this United vintage tried to match that of 2006 who beat Roma 7-1 here in the Champions League quarter-finals.

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Bruno Fernandes scored with a sublime chip in to put United 1-0 up

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Bruno Fernandes scored with a sublime chip in to put United 1-0 upCredit: Getty
Lorenzo Pellegrini equalised from the penalty spot after Paul Pogba handballed in the area

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Lorenzo Pellegrini equalised from the penalty spot after Paul Pogba handballed in the areaCredit: AP
Edin Dzeko scored yet again at Old Trafford for 2-1

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Edin Dzeko scored yet again at Old Trafford for 2-1Credit: Reuters

United were in control of that game from the start, but not so this as they actually trailed 2-1 at the break.

It was a cracking first-half full of action and incident. Three goals scored and AS Roma forced into three substitutions due to injury, the first after just three minutes, including their goalkeeper.

Both Pogba and Cavani had been rested until the late stages of the goalless draw away to Leeds to keep them fresh for this game and they would combine to calve open Roma up for Fernandes to score the opener.

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Luke Shaw was up supporting the attack as usual and when he slipped the ball to Pogba the French World Cup winner executed a superb turn that left three Roma players in his wake.

Cavani pinged home the equaliser for United early in the second half

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Cavani pinged home the equaliser for United early in the second halfCredit: EPA
The Uruguayan was celebrating again when he netted his second

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The Uruguayan was celebrating again when he netted his secondCredit: EPA

He found Cavani, whose touch just inside the area was perfect for Fernandes to latch onto and lift the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.

Advantage United but for only four minutes as Pogba undid his good work by handing the opposition a penalty.

Rick Karsdorp charged to the byline to get a cross in and Pogba slid in to block it, but his arm was high and the ball hit his hand.

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David De Gea guessed the right way but Lorenzo Pellegrini’s spot-kick had too much power.

Mark Halsey’s view

PAUL POGBA can have no complaints after his first-half handball gifted Roma a penalty at Old Trafford.

The Manchester United midfielder’s arm was in an unnatural position when he blocked Rick Karsdorp’s cross.

Yes, Pogba was sliding in to stop the cross but the Frenchman made himself bigger with his arm in the air and Spanish referee Carlos del Cerro Grande correctly pointed to the spot.

VAR would have checked Pogba’s handball but it was not a clear and obvious error by the match official so the decision stood.

It was unnecessary for Pogba to slide into the challenge with his arm that high and his action saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side pegged back at 1-1.

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Pogba’s handball would have been given in any competition in the world and had it happened in the Roma box then United would have been screaming for a penalty.

It was cool as you like as Fernandes made it 4-2 from the penalty spot

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It was cool as you like as Fernandes made it 4-2 from the penalty spotCredit: Rex
Fernandes decided he wanted to equal Cavani's two goal haul

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Fernandes decided he wanted to equal Cavani’s two goal haulCredit: AP

Shaken, but stirred back into action Pogba tried to make amends with a thumping long range that Pau Lopez saved at full stretch.

He landed on his shoulder, however, and looked to have dislocated it so had to be switched for Antonio Mirante.

Could United take advantage? Eh, well not immediately as Roma would take the lead through Edin Dzeko, poking the ball home from close range after a slick move from the visitors.

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He likes it here. It was in October 2011 that he struck twice in that famous 6-1 win for Manchester City and he celebrated derby glory once more here with another brace in a 3-0 win in 2014.

Pogba rose highest to put United firmly in the driving seat at 5-2

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Pogba rose highest to put United firmly in the driving seat at 5-2Credit: Getty
Pogba thoroughly deserved his goal after an industrious performance

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Pogba thoroughly deserved his goal after an industrious performanceCredit: EPA

United have a habit of playing games of two halves, the second invariably better than the first and so it proved again as they first drew level three minutes after the break.

Pogba found Cavani who exchanged passed with Fernandes before finishing superbly with a first time side-footed effort into the top right-hand corner.

He should have given them the lead five minutes later when Shaw teed him up only to sky a shot from ten yards.

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But the top strikers just go again, and he did, and he scored again.

Mason Greenwood rounded off the scoring with United's sixth

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Mason Greenwood rounded off the scoring with United’s sixthCredit: AP

Aaron Wan Bissaka’s 64th-minute cross shot was spilled by the goalkeeper and Cavani’s poachers instincts had him in the right place at the right time to scoop home the loose ball.

He was not done, winning a penalty five minutes later after Smalling felled him near the byline.

Fernandes tucked the spot kick away and on 75 minutes provided the cross from Luke Shaw’s short corner for Pogba to head home and make it five.

Mason Greenwood came on to add number six latching onto a great ball from Cavani with the outside of his boot to fire home.

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Book the plane to Gdansk, United are on their way.

Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds





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