Omonia Nicosia 2, Manchester United 3 (Europa League)
Super-subs Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial spared Manchester United’s blushes after Omonia Nicosia took a shock lead in their Europa League tie.Embed from Getty Images
Former Nottingham Forest striker Karim Ansarifard stunned United with a counter attacking goal in the first half before United upped their game in the second half.
Rashford hit a double either side of an Anthony Martial goal after United recorded the most shots on goal in any match they have played this season – 28 shots with 8 on target.
The excitement lingered though – Nikolas Panagiotou reduced the deficit to keep United on their toes until the end.
United had hit the woodwork twice and managed to restore some semblance of pride after another sticky start – even though Cristiano Ronaldo could not get on the scoresheet with the chance of notching a remarkable 700th career goal going begging despite his team mates trying to help him.
United boss Erik Ten Hag hailed the impact of his substitututes – their last five competitive goals have come from players who had started off the bench but warned his side that a real challenge awaited them on Sunday.
He said: “We started well, had a couple of chances and then a mistake that can’t happen – we have to learn from that.
“At half time I asked for more runs, we were too static.
“We made two subs and they had an impact. We missed Anthony Martial.
“This is only a warm-up, on Sunday we must react [against Everton].”
United made three changes from the side that were steamrollered by Manchester City on Sunday to face an Omonia Nicosia side who are currently fourth in the Cypriot first division.
Ronaldo, Casemiro, and Victor Lindelof started the game as Erik Ten Hag – who described the derby humbling as a ‘wake-up call’ – Rashford and Scott McTominay were stood down to the bench while Raphael Varane was injured.
It had all started so promisingly with Antony one on one with Fabiano in the Omonia Nicosia goal but opted to square the ball to Ronaldo – poorly – when clean through.
Ronaldo forced a save from the Fabiano while Bruno Fernandes hit the crossbar after Ronaldo had picked him out.
All their efforts went to waste for United – in particular a chance for Antony to repeat his Etihad goal from outside the area – but their fragile confidence took a massive blow when they were hit on the break after 35 minutes.
Karim Ansarifard was found by Brazilian Bruno Felipe who had carried the ball upfield as three Omonia players broke free on the break after a terrible mistake by Tyrell Malacia – caught in possession after a United set piece went badly wrong.
The Iranian made no mistake as he clipped the ball over David De Gea and a grounded Lisandro Martinez and inside the top of the United goal.
The home crowd went crazy as United players and fans alike tried to register what had just happened.
There was a sniff of a handball by Martinez after he appeared to pull an Omnia player’s shirt as the home side went for a second goal but the Reds escaped without further judgement from VAR.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial come on to save Manchester United blushes at Omonia Nicosia
Rashford and Luke Shaw were brought on at the break as Malacia and Jadon Sancho – both responsible for losing the ball for Omonia’s goal – made way.
But with something to cling on to the Reds found it frustrating trying to break down their hosts with shots by Antony and Fernandes repelled.
Eventually, United’s quality paid off – Rashford levelled after recovering from a poor first touch from Diogo Dalot’s cross field pass to turn and curl the ball past Fabiano for his fourth goal of the season in the 53rd minute.
Ronaldo hit the side netting and the Reds went for the win by bringing on Anthony Martial for Fernandes after 61 minutes.
And the Frenchman rifled home from outside the box to put the Reds into the lead after picking up on a back heeled ball from Rashford two minutes later.
The Reds were getting back into their stride but were slack when Bruno Felipe miscued a lob over De Gea who was off his line after 68 minutes.
Anthony was replaced by Fred with 16 minutes to go as United sought to protect their lead.
Ronaldo looked set to score his 700th goal but when Dalot squared the ball to him the Portuguese could only hit the post with Fabiano grateful to collect the rebound.
Casemiro was relieved by McTominay for the last 8 minutes and Rashford hit his second goal of the night a minute later – tapping home Ronaldo’s ball across the face of goal.
But Nikolas Panagiotou replied immediately with a goal of his own from 8 yards out after slack defending from United.
Ronaldo and Rashford went close as the game played itself out but the Reds will have to improve greatly as they visit Everton on Sunday.