Omonia Nicosia 2-3 Man Utd: Marcus Rashford sparks United comeback to avoid shock defeat in Cyprus

Manchester United avoided an embarrassing defeat to Omonia Nicosia thanks to a second-half comeback to win 3-2 in the Europa League after being trailing at half-time.

Omonia Nicosia – fourth in the Cypriot league and coached by former Celtic manager Neil Lennon – went 1-0 at half-time after a quick break following a Manchester United corner that ended with Karim Ansarifard scoring.

Erik ten Hag, who picked a strong team including Cristiano Ronaldo and Casemiro, reacted with Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw, and it was Rashford who started the turnaround with a fresh finish before fellow substitute Anthony Martial put the visitors ahead.

Rashford made it 3-1 to cap off an impressive individual display before Nikolas Panayiotou meant United had to stay connected in the closing moments after narrowing the deficit.

Ronaldo looked desperate to impress, but his 700th career goal escaped him on a frustrating night, culminating in a jaw-dropping foul that hit the post despite the goal being six meters away.

Manchester United fell behind in the first half in Cyprus

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After a 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad in their opening game, United are now well into Group E after winning back-to-back.

Player ratings

Utd man: De Gea (6), Dalot (6), Lindelof (6), Martinez (7), Malacia (5), Casemiro (6), Eriksen (5), Antony (6), Fernandes (7), Sancho (5) Ronaldo (6)

Subs: Rashford (9), Martial (7), Fred (6), McTominay (6)

Man of the game: Marcus Rashford

How the super-sub Rashford commanded ragged Omonia…

Despite commanding the first 30 minutes, United’s waste in front of goal held them back. Bruno Fernandes finished off the crossbar, while Omonia Nicosia’s impressive goalkeeper Fabiano denied Ronaldo with a clever low save.

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United allowed their opponents, who finished seventh in the league but qualified for Europe by winning the Cyprus Cup for the first time in a decade, to grow in the game.

And, unbelievably, the little fish scored with their first shot on goal.

Jadon Sancho put Tyrell Malacia in trouble after a United corner and a slide from the full-back allowed the hosts to advance. With Sancho failing to recover, Omonia had a three-on-one situation and Bruno passed the ball to Ansarifard, who played before hitting the ball into the top corner of David de Gea’s net.

Sancho and Malacia paid for their mistakes at half-time and it was a revolutionary decision by Ten Hag as Rashford exploded on the bench.

It took United just eight minutes to equalize. Fernandes snatched an excellent 50-yard ball his way and the England international steadied himself before smartly finishing in the far corner to initiate the comeback.

Rashford then produced an elegant film to find the Martial replacement in space. The Frenchman showed his confidence level by shooting quickly and finding the bottom corner.

A potential crisis appeared to be averted 10 minutes from time when a frustrated Ronaldo, who hit a six-yard post with the open goal, gave up on trying to score from all angles and threw a smart ball to Rashford to score. Omonia bounced back again with Panayiotou kicking into the top corner to establish a dramatic finish, but United remained strong.

Rashford re-emerging as a great player

Marcus Rashford of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the Europa League Group E football match between Omonia and Manchester United at the GSP stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, October 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Marcus Rashford has eight goal involvements in eight games this season

Sky Sports’ Joe Shread:

After an extremely disappointing 2021/22 season hampered by poor form and a shoulder injury, Rashford appears to be enjoying a run of recovery under Ten Hag.

In just eight games under the Dutchman, the 24-year-old has already improved his number of assists from last season and equaled his goal tally.

The two goals he scored away from Omonia were the fourth and fifth he has scored this season, while his brilliant assist for Martial’s goal was the third in what is turning out to be a highly productive campaign.

While Rashford’s numbers are impressive, it’s when and where he’s converting his chances that catches the eye.

The academy graduate’s five goals were spread over just three matches and were responsible for winning six extra points from Man Utd in those games.

Rashford’s first of the season came in a 2-1 win over Liverpool – Ten Hag’s first win – while the two seconds helped Manchester United to a 3-1 win over another Arsenal rival.

Then in Cyprus, Rashford came off the bench at half-time with his team facing an embarrassing defeat to lead them to a hard-fought victory that kept them within striking distance of first place in Europa League Group E.

Rashford’s resurgence as a major player is a welcome boost for Man Utd and Ten Hag, and it could be coming at just the right time for the striker as he seeks a call-up to an England team clamoring for a spark ahead. this winter’s World Cup.

The Hague: Subs made an impact

Erik ten Haag speaking to BT Sport:

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Erik ten Hag says he has to be careful not to rush Anthony Martial back and was pleased with his performance on the bench.

“I think we started well, a few chances and then an unnecessary mistake. That can’t happen – you have to take responsibility there. Then 10 really bad minutes and we have to learn from that.

“We were very static and you have to make opposing moves to stay behind. So we also made two substitutions and they had an impact.

“I think the substitutions really had an impact today and that’s really good for making the team stronger.

On Martial: “We’ve already seen it in pre-season. It was a big disappointment for this team and for me when he got injured. We missed him and that also affected our performance.”

Lennon: United deserved to win, we took advantage of our luck

Neil Lennon speaking to BT Sport:

“We were lucky. It was a great game and we stayed in the game, whether it’s a good goalkeeper or United missing good opportunities. Scoring two goals against them is probably more than I could have imagined.

“I think until we scored, we didn’t really believe in ourselves, but it gave us something to hold on to. The third goal killed us and, on balance, United deserved to win.

“On the second goal, we were very open, and that was at a crucial point in the game. Bruno then misses a big chance to get us back. When you’re running errands, you have to make it count.

“There are things we could do better, but the gap between the teams is huge. But we played a game and getting two goals is fantastic.”

Watch England: Big Hits from Rashford, Shaw

One assist and two goals in 45 minutes for Rashford. You can’t ask for much more.

Rashford is playing like a player determined to make the World Cup. His performance would have been hard for Gareth Southgate to ignore. His influence, skill and quality were the catalyst for Manchester United to go through what could have been a damaging and embarrassing night. Playing on the left, he looked for the ball at every opportunity and after 18 hard-hitting months, he is now back to his best. His touches are positive and he has a desire to make something happen every time he makes it to the final third.

Shaw also had an impressive 45 minutes off the bench. Picking up where he left off in England, his desire to move forward and create would have impressed Ten Hag, who could reward him by bringing him back to the Premier League, something Southgate would approve of with Qatar just over six weeks away.

What is the next?

Manchester United return to Premier League action on Sunday as they travel to Evertonstarting at 19:00.

Erik ten Hag’s team will play the return match against Omonia Nicosia at Old Trafford on Thursday, starting at 8pm.

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