Rashford free-kick gives Man Utd first-leg lead

Marcus Rashford scores for Manchester United against Celta Vigo

Marcus Rashford also scored the winner in United’s quarter-final against Anderlecht

Marcus Rashford’s superb free-kick gave Manchester United control of their Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo.

The 19-year-old striker’s curling effort not only gave United the lead, but also a precious away goal going into next Thursday’s second leg at Old Trafford.

With United outside the Premier League’s top four – a point behind Manchester City and four off third-placed Liverpool – the Europa League perhaps represents their best opportunity of earning a place in next season’s Champions League.

They looked to have spurned their best chances in northern Spain – three times they were denied in the first half by home goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez.

As Celta improved, United’s wastefulness seemed increasingly important, only for Rashford to produce the sort of quality needed to beat the excellent Alvarez.

Returning home with an advantage, Jose Mourinho’s side will be strong favourites to progress to face Ajax or Lyon in Stockholm on 24 May in the final of a competition they have never won.

Rashford’s moment of magic

Marcus Rashford scores for Manchester United against Celta Vigo<!–

Rashford gave United the lead midway through the second half

Rashford was one of the three United players thwarted by Alvarez in a first period the visitors had the better of.

His arcing strike was heading for the top corner before Alvarez leapt to his left, with the Spaniard also stopping a surging Henrikh Mkhitaryan and diving to push away a Jesse Lingard prod from eight yards out.

With United seeing less of the ball in the second period, Rashford – who scored the extra-time winner in the quarter-final against Anderlecht – stood over a free-kick to the right of the Celta penalty area.

After Daley Blind’s decoy run, the England international whipped the ball over the wall, past the outstretched left hand of Alvarez and just inside the far post.

No cause for Celta concern

By then, Celta could have been out of the tie, having been kept on level terms by the brilliance of their goalkeeper.

In their first European semi-final, the hosts did not look to be any better than their current domestic position – 11th in La Liga and on the back of three successive defeats. United should have every confidence of progressing from their first European semi in six years.

Celta did have chances – both Daniel Wass and former Liverpool player Iago Aspas headed wide when they should have done better, while Pione Sisto’s deflected shot forced Sergio Romero to save in the second half.

But United’s front three of Rashford, Lingard and Mkhitaryan were more lively, while Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini dominated midfield.

Mixed injury news for United

Ashley Young<!–

Substitute Ashley Young lasted only 11 minutes before being forced off

This was United’s 58th game of a season that promises six more matches if they make it to Stockholm.

When Eric Bailly limped off in the draw against Swansea on Sunday, Mourinho’s squad looked to be further stretched, especially at the back. Luke Shaw had already been injured in that game, while Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo were on the sidelines.

However, Bailly was fit enough to start in Spain, alongside midfielder Pogba, who has recovered from a muscle strain.

Centre-back Smalling, who had not played for United since 19 March because of a knee injury, was on the bench.

Still, it was not all positive news for Mourinho. Ashley Young, himself a substitute, lasted only 11 minutes before suffering what appeared to a hamstring problem, paving the way for Smalling’s return.

Man of the match – Sergio Alvarez

Sergio Alvarez<!–

Marcus Rashford may have produced the defining moment, but Celta would have been as good as out if it had not been for goalkeeper Alvarez

‘Let’s hope Old Trafford wants us to win’

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho: “I am very pleased with the performance but not with the result. At half-time we should have had three – or at least two goals.

“We played well enough to have the tie closed, but we have to go and play at Old Trafford.

“Rashford is a 19-year-old kid who is in love with football. He stays after training for half an hour to practise taking free-kicks and waits for the opportunity.

“We tried to win the match but we missed chances. We played well, we were compact against a team who are difficult to play against.

“Let’s hope Old Trafford wants us to win because when Old Trafford wants it, we win.”

What’s next?

United’s hectic schedule continues with a Premier League trip to Arsenal at 16:00 BST on Sunday, while Celta have a domestic date at Malaga on the same day.

The return leg is at Old Trafford next Thursday (20:05 BST kick-off).

Live Text

Match ends, Celta de Vigo 0, Manchester United 1.

Second Half ends, Celta de Vigo 0, Manchester United 1.

Iago Aspas (Celta de Vigo) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Antonio Valencia (Manchester United).

Foul by Jonny (Celta de Vigo).

Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Substitution, Celta de Vigo. Claudio Beauvue replaces Hugo Mallo.

Substitution, Manchester United. Chris Smalling replaces Ashley Young because of an injury.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Ashley Young (Manchester United) because of an injury.

Foul by John Guidetti (Celta de Vigo).

Eric Bailly (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Paul Pogba (Manchester United) right footed shot from more than 40 yards on the left wing is close, but misses to the left from a direct free kick.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card.

Foul by Hugo Mallo (Celta de Vigo).

Ashley Young (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Pablo Hernández (Celta de Vigo) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).

Substitution, Manchester United. Anthony Martial replaces Marcus Rashford because of an injury.

Substitution, Manchester United. Ashley Young replaces Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Gustavo Cabral.

Pablo Hernández (Celta de Vigo) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Paul Pogba (Manchester United).

Iago Aspas (Celta de Vigo) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Matteo Darmian (Manchester United).

Attempt missed. Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right.

Attempt blocked. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Marcus Rashford.

Substitution, Celta de Vigo. Jozabed replaces Daniel Wass.

Foul by Gustavo Cabral (Celta de Vigo).

Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Attempt missed. Iago Aspas (Celta de Vigo) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jonny.

Pione Sisto (Celta de Vigo) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Facundo Roncaglia.

Offside, Celta de Vigo. Jonny tries a through ball, but Gustavo Cabral is caught offside.

Corner, Celta de Vigo. Conceded by Antonio Valencia.

Attempt missed. Gustavo Cabral (Celta de Vigo) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Goal! Celta de Vigo 0, Manchester United 1. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) from a free kick with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.

Hugo Mallo (Celta de Vigo) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Hugo Mallo (Celta de Vigo).

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