MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United reached the Europa League knockout stages with two games to spare after goals by Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford secured a 3-0 home win over Partizan Belgrade in Group L on Thursday.
The result left United top of the group on 10 points from four games, two ahead of Dutch side AZ Alkmaar who enjoyed a 5-0 away rout of Kazakhstan’s Astana. Third-placed Partizan have four points and Astana none.
United, who won Europe’s second-tier club competition in 2017 under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s predecessor Jose Mourinho, dominated throughout but poor finishing denied them a bigger win at Old Trafford.
A wasteful Rashford missed three early chances before 18-year old Greenwood fired the home side ahead in the 22nd minute when he took a through ball in his stride, turned his marker and steered a low shot past goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.
Martial, who scored a penalty in United’s 1-0 win at Partizan a fortnight ago, doubled the lead in the 33rd with a deft finish after beating two defenders with neat footwork.
Rashford made it 3-0 early in the second half with a left-foot thunderbolt from inside the penalty area into the top corner to cap a flowing move in front of the Stretford End.
The hosts took their foot off the gas in the last 30 minutes but Partizan, roared on by 1,000 noisy away fans, created nothing up front as United remained the only side in this season’s competition yet to concede a goal.
Solskjaer was pleased with the result but also pointed out that his side should have scored more goals.
“We needed a win but we needed a performance in which the boys wanted to go forward and score more than one goal,” he told BT Sports.
“We could have had loads more but it was pleasing and it was important to get the points.
“You expect to win at home against teams like this. No disrespect to Partizan, because they gave us a really good game over there, but at home you expect to win,” Solskjaer added.
“We should have buried it in the first 10 minutes but going in 2-0 at halftime makes you confident.”
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ed Osmond
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