Marcus Rashford superb, Eric Bailly stupid for Man United vs. Celta Vigo
Manchester United edged through to their first Europa League final following a 1-1 home draw against Celta Vigo, a performance that bore the best and worst hallmarks of the Jose Mourinho era. There was intensity after a vigorous Celta start but having taken the lead on the night, the hosts retreated further and further into defence, almost paying the price and only spared by a glaring injury-time miss from John Guidetti.
United will struggle in the final against Ajax without Eric Bailly, red-carded in the late stages here, but no matter how narrowly they made it, the final is where they are and tonight is cause for celebration. The greater critiques will surely come tomorrow.
Marcus Rashford was again a star, driving his team forward at each opportunity and providing a superb assist for Marouane Fellaini. Sergio Romero also looked sharp from the very beginning.
Eric Bailly's late red card deprives United of their best defender for the final against Ajax. More broadly, United were strangely defensive from very early in the second half, with almost all of their players subdued by the end.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Though Mourinho prevailed, the question is why he made such heavy weather of it as United came so close to elimination at the very end. His players should have put this tie out of sight in the first leg, and his tactical conservatism almost cost them the tie in the second.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Sergio Romero, 7 -- Parried away a strike from Iago Aspas in the opening minutes, setting the tone for a performance where he was called upon fairly often. Thankfully, he was always sharp when needed.
DF Antonio Valencia, 7 -- Worked extremely hard and often pressed onto the final third, though he lacked creativity in crucial areas.
DF Eric Bailly, 5 -- Was one of his team's best defenders, stepping forward smartly to cut out trouble as soon as it developed in midfield until his wholly unnecessary part in a late fracas saw him dismissed. United will miss him greatly in the final.
DF Daley Blind, 6 -- Got forward with some regularity and his distribution was fairly good, but he was too often (if unsurprisingly) outmatched for speed.
DF Matteo Darmian, 6 -- Steady and unspectacular, as is his brief from Mourinho these days. Held his position diligently while Valencia pressed forward on the other flank.
MF Ander Herrera, 7 -- Put in his typically exhausting shift, creating several chances and making several interceptions. Despite not wearing the armband, he again looked like this team's true captain.
MF Marouane Fellaini, 7 -- Scored what ended up being the decisive goal and what he lacked in elegance he made up for in efficiency, covering a good amount of ground and providing support in all areas of the pitch.
MF Paul Pogba, 7 -- His first half showing was so strong in the early stages that it seemed he would dominate the game. His effect was muted somewhat as his team dropped deeper, but he was still a crucial outlet for the early pass.
FW Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 7 -- His speed and movement with and without the ball set the tone in the first half, with two magical runs at the heart of Celta's defence. Lost some intensity in the second half, and perhaps also lost too much of the ball.
FW Jesse Lingard, 5 -- Was far more effective in a defensive sense, with his efforts in the final third lacking precision as they had in the first leg. Pressed with purpose but could not find the subtlety his team needed.
FW Marcus Rashford, 8 -- Constantly inventive with his touch and movement, he laid on his team's goal with a superb cross of which any elite winger would have been proud. A wonderful head for the big occasion.
MF Michael Carrick, NR (for Mkhitaryan, 77) -- Came on to steady the midfield and added a degree of composure, even if his lack of speed invited additional pressure.
FW Wayne Rooney, NR (for Lingard, 86) -- Ran down vital seconds out by the corner flag, just as a smart veteran should.
DF Chris Smalling, NR (for Rashford, 89) -- Provided a much-needed extra body in defence as United anxiously saw the game out.
Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.