Manchester United were made to sweat in more ways than one in Cologne as Copenhagen and Karl-Johan Johnsson kept them at bay before Bruno Fernandes’ extra-time penalty finally settled a UEFA Europa League quarter-final played in temperatures of 30C.Man. United vs Copenhagen: as it happened
Match in briefCopenhagen began brightly in Cologne, and former Danish international Morten Bruun would not have been alone when he pondered on 20 minutes: “Are United playing in white or red?” Yet slowly but surely the answer became obvious as the English favourites gained a stranglehold on the game.
Bruno Fernandes beats Johnsson’s dive. JustUEFA via Getty ImagesJust before the break the pressure looked to have told as Mason Greenwood found the net, only for the goal to be disallowed after a VAR check. A theme of United disappointment emerged. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men spent much of the second period camped in the Copenhagen half but time and again the attacking fires failed to spark. When they did, Johnsson was invariably in the way.United carried a threat – speculative efforts from Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes both came back off the post – but so long as it remained 0-0 and Rasmus Falk lurked, so did their Danish opponents. Bruno Fernandes’s spot kick five minutes into extra time, following a foul on Anthony Martial, brought joy and relief.Matthew Howarth, United reporterIt took United a while to get going in Cologne, but Solskjær’s team deserve their place in the semi-finals on the balance of play. Indeed, the Red Devils could have won by a far greater margin were it not for the heroics of Johnsson, whose stunning saves kept Copenhagen in the game until the very end.
Dejected Andreas Bjelland at full timeGetty ImagesSture Sandø, Copenhagen reporterYou can’t say it’s unfair that United are heading to the semi-finals, but Copenhagen definitely died with their boots on. Ståle Solbakken and his staff will be satisfied with the performance even if they fell short of the miracle. The performances of Falk, defender Victor Nelsson and especially Johnsson were more or less flawless.ReactionJuan Mata, United midfielder: “Today is more about relief and tiredness. The team is quite tired physically. It wasn’t the best of games, but at this stage of the season and after so many months it’s very important to win. Hopefully we can win this tournament.”Jonas Wind, Copenhagen forward: “It’s been a great run in the UEFA Europa League and we played a great game against Man. United. I think we can be proud of our performance.”
Solskjær: ‘Patience was key to United win’Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Man. United manager: “It’s the third time this season [that we’ve reached the last four]. We’ve got to the semi-finals in every competition we’ve been in. Their goalkeeper was fantastic, actually unbelievable, but we also hit the post twice. It could have been one of those nights.”Key statsManchester United are through to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals for the second time – on the first occasion, in 2016/17, they went on to win the competition.United are through to their 17th semi-final in UEFA club competition. Their record to date is W8 L8, including wins in their last five.Bruno Fernandes is the UEFA Europa League’s seven-goal top scorer this season.Thirteen of Bruno Fernandes’ 27 goals in 2019/20 have come from the penalty spot.United are 15 UEFA Europa League knockout matches unbeaten.The Red Devils have kept nine clean sheets in their last 12 UEFA Europa League matches.United have lost just one of their last 24 games (W17 D6), conceding 13 goals in that spell.Juan Mata made his 100th appearance in UEFA club competitionLine-ups
2017 final highlights: Manchester United 2-0 AjaxManchester United: Romero; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly (Lindelöf 70), Maguire, Williams; Fred (Matić 70); Greenwood (Mata 91), Bruno Fernandes, Pogba, Rashford (Lingard 113); Martial (McTominay 120 1)Copenhagen: Johansson; Varela (Bartolec 105), Nelsson, Bjelland, Boilesen (Bengtsson 15); Pep Biel (Oviedo 57), Stage (Mudražija 105), Zeca; Daramy (Kaufmann 57), Wind, Falk (Bøving 111)What’s nextUnited will face Sevilla in the semi-finals on Sunday 16 August in Cologne, with the final at the same venue five days later.