What the hell did Simon Deli think? What did the Club Brugge defender have to commit one of the most idiotic handball violations of this or any other season to give Manchester United a place in the last 16 of the Europa League?
The draw was evenly 0-0 in the night and 1-1 on aggregated until that crucial moment. In an attempt to present himself as his goalkeeper Simon Mignolet – who until then had performed very well without any help – Deli United awarded a penalty and was sent.
It started when Luke Shaw retrieved an over-hit pass from Scott McTominay after 22 minutes and played the ball into the penalty area. Bruno Fernandes threw it at Daniel James who curled a shot to the far corner.
Bruno Fernandes made it 1-0 from the penalty area with his first goal for Manchester United
Odion Ighalo also came off the line when he tapped home to make it 2-0 with 34 minutes past
Scott McTominay’s 18-yard effort shortly before half-time brought United out of sight
Mignolet saw it and started diving, but must have thought his eyes were cheating on him when Ivory Coast International Deli made an identical dive for him and extended his left arm to turn the ball away.
The expression of horror on the face of Bruges coach Philippe Clement said it all when the Dutch referee Serdar Gozubuyuk pointed to the spot and took the red card. Even without their danger, man Emmanuel Dennis and captain Ruud Vormer, his team was out for 10 men for the best run of 70 minutes.
As if the incident itself was not far enough, Gozubuyuk then went to the touchline to view it on a monitor. Was there really a debate?
Manchester United against Club Brugge
MAN UTD (4-2-3-1): Romero 5.5; Wan-Bissaka 6.5, Bailly 7, Maguire 7, Shaw 6; Fred 7, McTominay 7 (Greenwood 72, 6); Mata 7, Fernandes 8 (Lingard 65, 6), James 7 (Chong 46, 7); Ighalo 7. Subs: De Gea, Lindelof, Williams, Lingard, Matic, Greenwood.
Scorers: Fernandes pen 27, Ighalo 34, McTominay 41, Fred 81, 90 + 3
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 7
CLUB BRUGGE (3-5-2): Mignolet 6.5; Mata 6 (Mitrovic 62, 6), Mechele 6, Deli 3; Kossounou 4.5, Ricca 6.5, Rits 5.5 (De Ketelaere 79, 6), Vanaken 6.5, De Cuyperv6; Tau 6 (Diatta 62, 6), Okereke 6.5. Subs: Horvath, Sobol, Krmencik, Authors.
Manager: Philippe Clement 5.5
Referee: Serdar Gozubuyuk (Holland) 7
By the time Fernandes acted to take the penalty, almost five minutes had passed. Four days after he scored his first United goal from the spot, the £ 68 million man showed the same coolness and technique – short run-up, big hop, solid finish – to put the side of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer first.
The painful part of Bruges was that they had been right in the match until that moment.
In a hectic opening at Old Trafford, the leaders of the Belgian League almost scored a repeat of their route one goal in the first leg at home last week when the long kickfield of Mignolet David Okereke gave a clear view of the goal of Sergio Romero.
Mats Rits then led an attempt after the keeper of the United.2 hit Hans Vanaken’s cross on him.
United was at the top and also had their chances when Mignolet saved from Juan Mata and then twice from Fernandes, the second time he hit the ball against the post.
If Deli’s act of madness didn’t end the game, it certainly waved the balance in favor of United and they were home and dry halfway through.
Fernandes had an immediate impact on this United team and he had his second and third goals for the interval.
The Portuguese playmaker turned and turned on the edge of the area in the 34th minute before cutting a pass to the back post. Mata dropped it before leading the ball back over the goal for Odion Ighalo to convert up close.
Fernandes was excellent in the first half when he pulled the strings out of his role 10
The midfielder produced an excellent appearance before putting his penalty past Simon Mignolet
Ighalo slid home Juan Mata’s six-meter withdrawal to make his first goal since joining the club
The United United fan made his full debut instead of Anthony Martial, who was injured in training on Wednesday after being loaned by Shanghai Shenhua at the age of 30.
Ighalo’s joy of scoring was clearly shared between his teammates and Solskjaer in the dugout when the Nigerian striker rushed to the touchline to celebrate, lifted his sweater to reveal a T-shirt tribute to his sister Mary who died in December.
The fight had disappeared from the visitors and they conceded a sloppy goal in the 41st minute. Odilon Kossounou gave the ball away close to his own corner flag and Fernandes was quick on it.
McTominay marked his first start since his return from a well-taken goal
Fred added two goals in the second half while United came on a comfortable 5-0 win in Old Trafford
Victory sealed a total win of 6-1 and the place of United in the last 16 of the Europa League
He played the ball in to Fred, who founded McTominay, and the young midfielder marked his first start since Boxing Day after a knee injury by leading a shot into Mignolet’s right post.
United was comfortable enough to send Tahith Chong halfway and take Fernandes off in the 65th minute – while Chong was treated after being crushed by Mignolet – to keep their new signing for Everton fresh on Sunday.
Fred made four in the 82nd minute when he stepped aside in an empty net from the cross of Jesse Lingard after Bruges again gave possession away close to their own goal, and a fifth from the edge of the penalty area added in extra time when he was pulled up by the impressive Chong.
So United continues in Europe as expected. After they started the draw as a favorite, they didn’t need any help. Only Deli knows why he plays them that way.