Manchester United’s teenage striker Marcus Rashford struck a stunning second-half free-kick to secure a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo in their Europa League semi-final, first leg on Thursday, leading to praise from his manager Jose Mourinho.
The victory puts United on course for this month’s final with Ajax Amsterdam – the most likely opponents after they beat visitors Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 in their first leg on Wednesday.
Celta keeper Sergio Alvarez had denied United several times but was powerless to stop Rashford’s 67th minute strike soaring into the net after the striker had won the free-kick.
“He worked really hard and created them problems. He had a fantastic shot in the first half with that beautiful save, and then the free kick is (a result of) work,” Mourinho said of Rashford’s performance.
“He works every day, he loves to work, sometimes the training session finishes for the group and he keeps doing his individual work with my assistant, so the free-kick is really well taken, I think the goalkeeper has no chance because the ball was really fast.”
Despite the victory coach Jose Mourinho was frustrated with his side’s inability to take their chances and knows there is still a job to do in the return leg at Old Trafford next week.
“It was a small margin for victory, it could have been better, 0-1 is a small margin and seeing Celta Vigo’s trajectory in the Europa League, they definitely deserve respect for the away match,” he said.
Three-times European champions United had never reached the last four of the Europa League or its predecessor the UEFA Cup, while Celta were in their first major continental semi-final.
United’s victory was slightly soured when 19-year-old Rashford hobbled off 10 minutes from time clutching his knee.
Celta Vigo coach Eduardo Berizzo said his side had played well against a much stronger opponent and could still switch the tie around with an upset at Old Trafford.
Berizzo said, “We have competed equally with a great rival who has lost of passion, who play as a unit. But I think we kept the passion in our game and we want our attack to be liberated in the next match, but my feeling is that we have truly competed today, so we hope to do something great in the away match.”