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Manchester United cruised into the knockout stages of the Europa League on Thursday night after beating Partizan Belgrade

Say what you want about Manchester United, they are through to the knockout stage of the Europa League with very little fuss and two games to spare.

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True, it had not been the most scintillating of campaigns until Thursday night. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer demanded ‘front foot football’ from his players and that’s exactly what he got as United responded with a vibrant attacking display to blow away the Serbians of Partizan Belgrade.

The competition has provided Solskjaer with a platform to blood his younger players and Mason Greenwood enhanced his burgeoning reputation with another well-taken goal. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford got the others and it could have been substantially more.

Manchester United cruised into the knockout stages of the Europa League on Thursday night after beating Partizan Belgrade

Manchester United cruised into the knockout stages of the Europa League on Thursday night after beating Partizan Belgrade

Mason Greenwood opened the scoring at Old Trafford with an excellent finish midway through the opening period

Mason Greenwood opened the scoring at Old Trafford with an excellent finish midway through the opening period

Mason Greenwood opened the scoring at Old Trafford with an excellent finish midway through the opening period

Greenwood celebrates his opening goal in the corner with his team-mates as United got their reward for a fine start
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Greenwood celebrates his opening goal in the corner with his team-mates as United got their reward for a fine start

Greenwood celebrates his opening goal in the corner with his team-mates as United got their reward for a fine start

Anthony Martial made it two in the 33rd minute after receiving the ball on the edge of the box and driving past defenders

Anthony Martial made it two in the 33rd minute after receiving the ball on the edge of the box and driving past defenders

Anthony Martial made it two in the 33rd minute after receiving the ball on the edge of the box and driving past defenders

Martial looked to have overrun the ball but managed to use his pace to get there and slot it past Vladimir Stojkovic

Martial looked to have overrun the ball but managed to use his pace to get there and slot it past Vladimir Stojkovic

Martial looked to have overrun the ball but managed to use his pace to get there and slot it past Vladimir Stojkovic

Marcus Rashford ensured United made a fine start to the second half by hitting their third goal in front of the Stretford End

Marcus Rashford ensured United made a fine start to the second half by hitting their third goal in front of the Stretford End

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Marcus Rashford ensured United made a fine start to the second half by hitting their third goal in front of the Stretford End

Rashford's exuberant celebrations left him in a heap on the floor as the Manchester United fans went wild in the stands

Rashford's exuberant celebrations left him in a heap on the floor as the Manchester United fans went wild in the stands

Rashford’s exuberant celebrations left him in a heap on the floor as the Manchester United fans went wild in the stands

MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS

Manchester United: Romero, Wan Bissaka, Maguire, Rojo, Young, McTominay (Lingard 75), Fred (Garner 63), Greenwood, Mata, Rashford (Pereira 67), Martial.

Subs not used: Jones, Grant, James, Williams.

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Goals: Greenwood 21, Martial 33, Rashford 49

Bookings: Young

Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 

Partizan Belgrade: Stojkovic, Nemanja Miletic, Ostojic, Strahinja Pavlovic, Urosevic, Natcho (Tosic 60), Zdjelar, Scekic, Asano (F Stevanovic 70), Soumah, Umar (Ivanovic 86).

Subs not used: Vujacic, Brezancic, N Stevanovic, Lutovac.

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Goals: None

Bookings: Natcho, Pavlovic

Manager: Savo Milosevic

Referee: Mattias Gestranius (Finland) 

This was an antidote to United’s impotence in front of goal this season, particularly in Europe. It shouldn’t go unnoticed either that they have yet to concede in four games in Group L.

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Only AZ Alkmaar can overtake them now and that scenario is likely to have disappeared by the time the Dutch side come here in December with United’s next game against Astana in Kazakhstan at the end of the month.

Certainly if they can produce another attacking performance like this one.

United’s last two group games away to Partizan and Alkmaar had produced just one shot on target – a penalty from Martial in Belgrade – and they were determined to improve on that on Thursday night.

It contributed to a lively start in which both teams had the ball in the net inside four minutes, only for the efforts from Martial and Umar Sadiq to be ruled out for offside.

That was before Rashford squandered a hat-trick of chances in the opening quarter of an hour.

Two of them came courtesy of Aaron Wan-Bissaka crosses from the right as Rashford sent one shot flying past the far post and volleyed another high over the bar. Juan Mata supplied the other, slipping the ball inside for the England striker whose first-time attempt was blocked by goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic at close-range.

Rashford is capable of stupendous goals like his winning freekick at Chelsea in the Carabao Cup last week, but his ability to gobble up more straightforward opportunities still needs improvement.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave supporters a nervous look as he made his way to the dugout before kick off at Old Trafford

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave supporters a nervous look as he made his way to the dugout before kick off at Old Trafford

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave supporters a nervous look as he made his way to the dugout before kick off at Old Trafford

Harry Maguire holds off the challenge of Takuma Asano as the Manchester United defender looked to get on the ball early on

Harry Maguire holds off the challenge of Takuma Asano as the Manchester United defender looked to get on the ball early on

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Harry Maguire holds off the challenge of Takuma Asano as the Manchester United defender looked to get on the ball early on

Aaron Wan-Bissaka made his way to the byline and tried to get a cross in under pressure from Slobodan Urosevic

Aaron Wan-Bissaka made his way to the byline and tried to get a cross in under pressure from Slobodan Urosevic

Aaron Wan-Bissaka made his way to the byline and tried to get a cross in under pressure from Slobodan Urosevic

Greenwood showed excellent composure when collecting the ball in the middle of the Partizan penalty area before scoring

Greenwood showed excellent composure when collecting the ball in the middle of the Partizan penalty area before scoring

Greenwood showed excellent composure when collecting the ball in the middle of the Partizan penalty area before scoring

It was the youngster's second goal in three Europa League matches this season as he tries to earn regular first-team football
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It was the youngster's second goal in three Europa League matches this season as he tries to earn regular first-team football

It was the youngster’s second goal in three Europa League matches this season as he tries to earn regular first-team football

Greenwood, on the other hand, has a coolness in front of goal that is reminiscent of his manager. He showed it by scoring the winner against Astana in September and did so again in the 21st minute here.

In fairness to Rashford, he created it after receiving the ball from Scott McTominay 25 yards from goal. Rashford’s sudden burst of pace seemed to catch Partizan off guard, as did the angled pass prodded through a ruck of players to the feet of Greenwood.

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The 18-year-old could have gone for goal first time but instead chose to check back inside Slobodan Urosevic and send Stojkovic the wrong way with a shot inside the post.

‘I think Greenwood will eventually be a better goalscorer than Marcus,’ former United favourite Paul Scholes told BT Sport.

‘If Marcus lacks anything it’s a little bit of composure in front of goal. He is probably a scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer.

‘But United have been excellent. As an attacking force it’s the best I’ve seen at Old Trafford for a long, long time. If there’s one criticism it’s that they could have had four or five.’

Juan Mata was given a rare start but found himself under pressure from Partizan's Aleksandar Scekic (left) and Bojan Ostojic

Juan Mata was given a rare start but found himself under pressure from Partizan's Aleksandar Scekic (left) and Bojan Ostojic

Juan Mata was given a rare start but found himself under pressure from Partizan’s Aleksandar Scekic (left) and Bojan Ostojic

The Partizan defence was opened up too easily by the Frenchman's direct run as he scored in his second Euro game in a row

The Partizan defence was opened up too easily by the Frenchman's direct run as he scored in his second Euro game in a row

The Partizan defence was opened up too easily by the Frenchman’s direct run as he scored in his second Euro game in a row

United players celebrated their second goal of the game with Martial as they cruised to another victory in the Europa League

United players celebrated their second goal of the game with Martial as they cruised to another victory in the Europa League

United players celebrated their second goal of the game with Martial as they cruised to another victory in the Europa League

Partizan's head coach Savo Milosevic reacts furiously on the touchline after watching side go two goals down in the first half

Partizan's head coach Savo Milosevic reacts furiously on the touchline after watching side go two goals down in the first half

Partizan’s head coach Savo Milosevic reacts furiously on the touchline after watching side go two goals down in the first half

Martial had a chance to score his second of the evening but saw his chipped effort denied by the onrushing Stojkovic

Martial had a chance to score his second of the evening but saw his chipped effort denied by the onrushing Stojkovic

Martial had a chance to score his second of the evening but saw his chipped effort denied by the onrushing Stojkovic

Solskjaer would have admired Greenwood’s clinical finish just as much as the selfless endeavour that led to the second goal in the 33rd minute.

The youngster succeeded in blocking Urosevic’s clearance and the ball fell for Martial who showed great footwork to evade Starhinja Pavlovic, Bojan Ostojic and Urosevic before slipping the ball past Stojkovic.

It was a reminder of just what the Frenchman can do when he puts his mind to it.

The second half was less than five minutes old when Rashford got the goal that had eluded him in the first period.

United made it 3-0 minutes after the restart when Rashford finally got on the scoresheet thanks to his powerful effort

United made it 3-0 minutes after the restart when Rashford finally got on the scoresheet thanks to his powerful effort

United made it 3-0 minutes after the restart when Rashford finally got on the scoresheet thanks to his powerful effort

Rashford high-fives Ashley Young on his way to celebrate in the corner after firing the ball into the top corner at the near post

Rashford high-fives Ashley Young on his way to celebrate in the corner after firing the ball into the top corner at the near post

Rashford high-fives Ashley Young on his way to celebrate in the corner after firing the ball into the top corner at the near post

Partizan looked for a consolation goal but Sergio Romero was there to prevent the Serbian side from pulling one back

Partizan looked for a consolation goal but Sergio Romero was there to prevent the Serbian side from pulling one back

Partizan looked for a consolation goal but Sergio Romero was there to prevent the Serbian side from pulling one back

Scott McTominay limped off with just over 15 minutes to play to deepen Manchester United’s midfield injury crisis

Mata floated a crossfield pass to Ashley Young who cushioned the ball to Rashford’s feet. It was by no means the easiest chance United’s No.10 had been given all night but maybe that helped. He didn’t overthink the situation this time, just swung his left foot at it and despatched a first-time shot into the top corner.

Young and Fred both went close with freekicks before the latter made way for Garner to come on for his first appearance at Old Trafford.

Partizan sent on Zoran Tosic, who only made five appearances in total during his ill-fated spell at United a decade ago, and Young was booked for hauling back the substitute.

It was a rare moment of discomfort for United on a night when they answered their manager’s call to progress from the group stage and do it in some style.