Cristiano Ronaldo back to the scoresheet as Manchester United demolished Sheriff Tiraspol 3-0 at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Cristiano Ronaldo marked his return with a goal as Manchester United kept their Europa League last-16 hopes alive with a routine 3-0 win over Sheriff Tiraspol.
A pair of headers from Diego Dalot and Marcus Rashford put United in control before Ronaldo wrapped up the points nine minutes from time and secured a top-two finish in Group E.
Erik ten Hag’s side must now beat leaders Real Sociedad by two goals next week to usurp the LaLiga outfit at the group summit and avoid a trickier clash in the play-off knockout round.
Erik ten Hag’s side have secured their place in the top two of Group E, meaning they are assured of at least a spot in the play-off round against one of the teams dropping down from the Champions League.
United dominated the first half with over three-quarters of the possession while registering 13 shots on goal without reply.
Antony and Tyrell Malacia drew smart saves out of Maksym Koval, who also demonstrated brilliant reflexes to deny Ronaldo a tap-in from Bruno Fernandes’ knockdown.
The hosts were almost punished as Rasheed Ibrahim was whiskers away from connecting with Patrick Kpozo’s deep cross but they finally broke through in the dying moments of the opening period as Dalot powered home Christian Eriksen’s inviting corner.
Ronaldo went close to doubling the lead when he fired narrowly over in the 58th minute before his close-range volley was disallowed for offside.
Watch the highlight of the match below;
United did establish breathing space seven minutes later as a patient build-up culminated in Rashford brilliantly heading home Luke Shaw’s centre to end a five-match scoreless streak.
Ronaldo was not to be denied and put the icing on the cake with nine minutes remaining, firing home at the second attempt after Koval had parried his initial header from Fernandes’ cross.
‘It was about getting the job done’
Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, speaking to BT Sport: “They set up to defend well and play on counter. It took us a while and got the first goal from a set piece so we’re happy with that. Once we went 1-0 ahead, the space opened up and we could have got a few more.
“Not getting the first goal quickly leads to a mix between frustration and calmness, you have to be calm to create chances and be clinical in taking them.
“Scoring before half-time was a big help, it allowed us to look for more goals and space and we found them. It was about getting the job done.”
On next week’s trip to Real Sociedad: “We have to go there and score by two goals. We have to score goals but defend well. It is going to be a tough game but looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work to adapt and change, but we’re getting there.”
Both teams return to domestic action on Sunday before concluding their group stage campaigns next week. In the Premier League, United face West Ham, while Sheriff welcome Dacia-Buiucani in the Superliga