Sloppy Man United pay the price for poor play in 1-1 draw at Anderlecht
BRUSSELS -- Three quick thoughts from Manchester United's 1-1 draw at Anderlecht on Thursday in a Europa League quarterfinal first leg.
1. Sloppy Man United pay the price against Anderlecht
Manchester United might be strong favourites to win the Europa League, but they will not do so if they continue to perform as they did while drawing with Anderlecht in Brussels' Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
Leander Dendoncker's 86th-minute header cancelled out Henrikh Mkhitaryan's first-half opener for United to seal a 1-1 draw and give the Belgians hope of an upset in next Thursday's quarterfinal second leg at Old Trafford.
But United should be heading back to Old Trafford with a place in the semifinals virtually secured. That they are not was down to sloppiness at both ends of the pitch and a sense that manager Jose Mourinho's players coasted through a game they expected to win comfortably.
There was complacency throughout United's performance, and a series of missed chances could yet prove costly if Anderlecht score at Old Trafford next week.
From the moment Jesse Lingard struck the post on 16 minutes, United appeared to be not quite at their game, but Mkhitaryan's goal on 36 minutes should have been the platform on which to build a comfortable win.
A lack of cutting edge and one particularly bad miss from Paul Pogba on 82 minutes kept Anderlecht in the game, and they put pressure on United at the back before Dendoncker scored late on.
United simply threw victory away, but they will have to hope this was a lesson learned and a valuable reminder that they will have to raise their game to win the Europa League.
2. Tielemans proves rising star status against Pogba
Those who know Belgian football will tell you that Anderlecht captain Youri Tielemans is the next big star to roll off the country's football production line, and the 19-year-old certainly lived up to the hype against United and £89 million man Pogba.
Not 20 until next month, Tielemans is already being linked with big-money moves to AS Monaco and AC Milan this summer, with the Italians reportedly ready to offer €30m to make him the most expensive player to leave a Belgian club.
Tielemans, a midfielder who made his senior debut for Belgium in November, faced a test of his credentials against United, however, given the experience of Michael Carrick and the class of Pogba.
Tielemans did enough to suggest that any Premier League team preparing to take a gamble on him this summer would be signing a player with genuine potential.
Tielemans is neat and tidy, with the instinct to drive forward from midfield. And to captain a club of Anderlecht's status at 19 underlines his maturity.
He had his moments against Pogba, who did not enjoy being tormented by the youngster's energy and persistent running.
The United man gradually grew into the game -- though he missed a golden chance to make it 2-0 late on -- and came out on top against Tielemans, but one thing for sure is that the young Belgian will be plucked from Anderlecht by a wealthy European club this summer.
3. Mourinho facing Europa League dilemma with Romero
As Mourinho promised after Sergio Romero's Premier League outing at Sunderland on Sunday, the Argentina goalkeeper kept his place ahead of David De Gea for this Europa League clash against Anderlecht.
Romero, 30, has been a regular in Europe for United this season and has started every one of the team's games in the knockout stages, but with Mourinho's team taking a step toward the semifinals with this result in Brussels, when does the manager put silverware ahead of sentiment by restoring De Gea to the team?
Rotating keepers and giving one or the other a competition as his own is becoming common among the big clubs.
Barcelona won the Champions League in 2015 with Marc-Andre ter Stegen playing every European game ahead of La Liga first-choice Claudio Bravo, while Arsene Wenger, to Arsenal's cost, stuck with David Ospina ahead of Petr Cech for the Champions League mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich earlier this season.
Mourinho is hardheaded when it comes to winning trophies, though, so will he be ruthless with Romero and turn to De Gea in order to boost United's Europa League ambitions? Or will he risk upsetting De Gea and stick with Romero?
Prior to this game, Romero had kept 15 clean sheets in 22 appearances for United, so Mourinho can at least bank on his No. 2 to perform at a high level if he keeps faith with him.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_