Anthony Martial, Manchester United Play Club Brugge to UEL 1st-Leg DrawFebruary 20, 2020
Manchester United will be confident of progressing from the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League, despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Club Brugge in the first leg on Thursday.
United were behind after 15 minutes when Emmanuel Dennis scored in style for the hosts. It was left to Anthony Martial to hit back for the Red Devils a little more than 20 minutes later.
Martial's priceless away goal at Jan Breydel Stadium means United are still well-positioned to finish the job when the two teams meet in the return leg at Old Trafford on February 27.
United deployed a 3-4-2-1 lineup, but the formation did little to prevent the hosts from setting the early pace. Brugge broke at will, consistently springing winger Dennis and striker Percy Tau behind the United back three.
It was reported Borussia Dortmund target Dennis who made the breakthrough when he caught United deputy goalkeeper Sergio Romero cold with a cheeky lob in the 15th minute.
Dennis hasn't been in awe of big-name opposition this season:
Clever movement from Dennis, allied with the pace of Brighton & Hove Albion loanee Tau, maintained Brugge's considerable threat. Dennis was unlucky not to score a second when he drew Romero into a fine save soon after.
It was a key stop because United were on level terms nine minutes before the break when Martial profited from a mistake at the back. The Frenchman was ruthless in the way he raced clear and finished coolly.
Goals are becoming a happy habit for one of the more under-appreciated centre-forwards in Europe:
Martial was still causing nerves along the Brugge back line during the second half. His quick feet and power almost took him through on three occasions, only for desperate, last-ditch tackles to deny the former AS Monaco man.
While he was lively, Martial was replaced soon after a clash near the touchline, with Odion Ighalo entering the fray. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also added another physical presence to his team by withdrawing Andreas Pereira and introducing Fred.
The changes would have counted for naught had Odilon Kossounou converted from inside the box in the 76th minute. Dennis was typically at the heart of the move, turning Harry Maguire inside out before firing a low cross across the penalty area.
Siebe Schrijvers dummied brilliantly, leaving Kossounou with the time to pick his spot beyond Romero. Instead, the midfielder leaned back and scuffed a poor effort wide of the post, a major let-off for the away side.
Solskjaer responded by bringing January signing Bruno Fernandes off the bench to replace Diogo Dalot. The ex-Sporting CP star instantly began linking up well with Juan Mata.
Fernandes made an immediate impact, but it came too late for United to turn a draw into victory. Even so, Solskjaer will fancy his squad to have enough quality to outwork and overpower Brugge in Manchester.
United host struggling Watford in the Premier League on Sunday, while Brugge are also in domestic action on the same day, at home to Charleroi.