Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal of the season as Manchester United eased past Sheriff Tiraspol 2-0 in Group E of the Europa League.
Despite a tepid start from Erik ten Hag’s side, Jadon Sancho broke the deadlock after 15 minutes and Ronaldo added a second from the penalty spot minutes before half time.
United took their foot off the gas in a second half that was almost entirely without incident, but the Premier League side still comfortably dispatched their Moldovan opposition.
The win sees United leapfrog Sheriff and move up to second place in Group E, three points behind leaders Real Sociedad.
Given the English club schedule has been drastically affected by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Ten Hag’s side’s next fixture will be against rivals Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in over a fortnight.
TALKING POINT – UNITED IMPROVING WITH EVERY GAME
It wasn’t a classic. Indeed, there was a significant disparity in terms of quality between the two sides, which is to be expected given United’s riches.
Yet there are still plenty of positives for Ten Hag to take back to Manchester. Ronaldo netted a much needed goal; Sancho scored too, and was central to much of United’s play; Christian Eriksen continued to dictate things in midfield; new signing Casemiro racked up some more minutes for his new club.
All in all, it was a valuable yet unspectacular day at the office.
Of course, one can’t draw too many conclusions on United from tonight’s showing, but the club do seem to be gathering momentum. Winning is a habit and Ten Hag side have now come out on top in four of the last five games, the exception being last Thursday’s Europa League hiccup against Sociedad.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – JADON SANCHO
It was not a game that produced a stand out performance in particular. Nevertheless, Sancho took his goal brilliantly and put in a good showing just hours after he had been left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
He has now scored three goals in his last six appearances in United colours, which is as many as he had netted in his previous 24 games combined.
Sheriff: Koval – 6, Zohouri – 6, Kiki – 5, Radeljic – 8, Kpozo – 6, Badolo – 7, Kyabou – 6, Diop – 7, Rasheed – 7, Atiemwen – 7, Ouattara – 7… Subs: Mudasiru – 6, Pernambuco – 6, Guedes – 6
Manchester United: De Gea – 6, Dalot – 7, Varane – 7, Martinez – 7, Malacia – 7, McTominay – 7, Eriksen – 8, Antony – 7, Fernandes – 7, Sancho – 8, Ronaldo – 7… Subs: Maguire – N/A, Casemiro – 6, Shaw – 7, Elanga – 6, Garnacho – N/A
17’ – GOAL (SANCHO) – Eriksen fed the ball to Sancho on the edge of the box, who took a brilliant first touch before cutting the ball back onto his left foot and scuffing an effort onto the far post and into the back of the net.
37’ – OFF THE LINE – Antony won the ball back in the Sheriff half and had the awareness to release Sancho in space on the left. The United winger then cut onto his right foot and side footed a shot past the keeper, only for his attempt to be cleared off the line heroically by Sheriff captain Stjepan Radeljić.
39’ GOAL (RONALDO) – Sheriff defender Patrick Kpozo clumsily brought down Diogo Dalot in the box and Ronaldo converted the subsequent spot kick, firing straight down the middle while sending Maksym Koval the wrong way.
48’ – BRUNO FERNANDES MISSED CHANCE- Bruno Fernandes was picked out brilliantly on the edge of the box by Diogo Dalot, but the Portuguese midfielder fired a first time effort from close range straight at the goalkeeper.