Mourinho’s team will meet Ajax in the final but they will have to do without Eric Bailly after his late red card during a massed confrontation between the two sets of players. Bailly had cuffed John Guidetti before Facundo Roncaglia, who had scored a few minutes earlier, tried to pick a fight of his own with Paul Pogba and United’s centre-half. Bailly and Roncaglia appeared willing to prolong the argument as they made their way off.
Ten against 10, United still had to survive six minutes of stoppage time before their trip to Stockholm on Wednesday week could be confirmed. Ajax will offer a greater threat than the side that is 12th in la Liga but Mourinho does not lose too many finals. He has already won the League Cup and it will be two trophies in his first season. Or to put it another way, as many as Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have managed between them in the last decade.
Old Trafford certainly felt like a happy place once Marouane Fellaini’s 17th-minute goal had soothed the crowd’s early nerves. Fellaini, a player who has been booed on this ground more times than he would wish to remember, was serenaded from all four stands. Paul Pogba could be seen ball-juggling in midfield and Marcus Rashford showed again he is an ideal wearer of United’s colours. “Football taught by Matt Busby‚” the song goes and Rashford fits in neatly with his speed, penetration and youthful exuberance.
Rashford’s finishing might still be raw sometimes, and there were some moments of carelessness in the second half, but the 19-year-old has responded impressively to the extra responsibility placed upon him now Zlatan Ibrahimovic is unavailable.