69 min: Sancho and Malacia combine crisply down the inside-left channel. Malacia pulls back for Ronaldo, who opens his body and attempts to steer a sidefoot into the top right. Wide. High. “Apparently Atiemwen’s middle name is Believe,” writes Peter Oh. “It’s his moment for nominative determinism.”
67 min: To be honest, this is a bit of a non-event now. Not that United will care. They’re getting their Europa League campaign back on track without too much fuss or drama, and Casemiro is getting himself back up to speed.
65 min: Fernandes slides a ball down the left for Malacia, who wins another United corner. Eriksen takes from this side as well. Sheriff clear, but United come again, Antony probing down the right. He plays the ball forward, to nobody in particular. Goal kick. Antony has been pretty quiet tonight.
63 min: Atiemwen is booked for a clip on the heels of Malacia. It wasn’t the worst challenge, and the Sheriff forward is entitled to feel a bit hard done by.
62 min: Fernandes earns a corner down the right. Eriksen takes. Radeljic heads clear. The Sheriff captain is putting in a shift tonight.
60 min: Rasheed latches onto Malacia’s lazy header towards his own box, and tries to lob De Gea from 30 yards. His effort is always sailing over the bar, but the keeper had it covered anyway.
58 min: That was one hell of a ball from Eriksen, with a clearance to match. Radeljic has single-handedly stopped United turning this into a rout, with his earlier goalline clearance and now that intervention to deny Ronaldo a certain goal. Nothing came of the resulting corner, by the way.
56 min: Eriksen whistles a glorious ball along the corridor of uncertainty, left to right through the Sheriff six-yard box. Ronaldo waits to tap in at the far post, only to be denied by the telescopic leg of Radeljic, who hooks clear at the very last nanosecond. What defending!
54 min: United are in full control, and there’s nothing going on.
52 min: United take what sting remains out of the game with some patient passing in the midfield.
50 min: Fernandes twists and turns, spins and shimmies down the inside-right channel. He nearly breaks clear into the box, but, presumably dizzy, falls over instead.
49 min: Ouattara wanders down the right and looks for Atiemwen in the middle. Too close to De Gea, who gathers. A basketball rhythm to the start of the second half.
48 min: Dalot cuts back from an advanced position on the right. Fernandes arrives late and sidefoots powerfully towards the bottom right. Koval kicks clear.
46 min: Ronaldo scampers after a long ball down the middle. He nearly gets on the end of it, but Koval claims. Sheriff go up the other end. Diop should find Rasheed clear on the penalty spot, United’s defence all over the place, but he misplaces a simple pass and the chance is gone.
Sheriff get the second half underway. Casemiro has replaced McTominay.
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There’s just enough time left for Malacia to block a Diop volley, and that’s the end of the first half. No added time. Sheriff have asked a few questions, but United have carried greater threat up front, and will be very happy with their work so far.
44 min: Eriksen makes some difference as well, mind, dictating from the centre of the field. Here he slips Dalot into space down the inside-right channel. Dalot shuttles it further forward and nearly releases Fernandes into the area. Koval does just enough to usher the ball out for a goal kick.
42 min: Rasheed battles with Malacia to win a corner for Sheriff down the right. Badolo takes, but can’t beat the first man. The clearance drops to Ouattara, who takes a fresh-air swipe. Sheriff have given as good as they’ve got for most of this match, but United have the sharper tools up front, and that’s been the difference.
40 min: Penny for the thoughts of Sheriff captain Radeljic, who seconds before the penalty award had made a sensational clearance off the line to keep the score at 0-1.
Ronaldo gives Koval the eyes, sends the keeper diving to his right, and slams the ball down the middle. That’s his first goal of the season!
38 min: Antony wedges down the right for Dalot, who races into the box after the ball. Before he can get there, Kpozo clips him from behind. Penalty! Kpozo goes into the book for his panicked lunge.
37 min: United are this close to making it two! Koval plays an appalling ball out from the back, straight at Antony. United are three on one! Antony unselfishly lays off to Sancho on his left. Sancho takes a touch and steers a low shot past Koval and … off the line by Radeljic!
35 min: Another free kick for United out on the left. Eriksen sends it dipping into the penalty box. Any touch as it drops, six yards out, and it’s a goal. But Varane can’t brush his toe on it, and Koval claims as it hits the turf. What a delivery that was. Just begging to be put away.
34 min: Antony, who has done very little so far, is given a long talking-to by the referee for leaving something on Kpozo.
33 min: Ronaldo latches onto a speculative long pass down the inside-right channel. He blazes it high and wide from a tight angle.
32 min: Diop drives down the right and cuts inside elegantly. He fires a low cross into the United box. Martinez clears. Sheriff come again, though Kpozo down the left. Kpozo shoots from an optimistic distance. Blocked. Rasheed tries to cream one in from an even more absurd range. His shot threatens the corner flag on the right.. Goal kick.
30 min: Ronaldo flicks a pass down the left for Malacia, who cuts back from the byline. Sancho takes up possession but the box is awfully crowded, and he can neither get a shot away nor return the ball to Ronaldo. Sheriff clear their lines.
28 min: Rasheed shields the ball with his back to goal, 30 yards out. Martinez nicks it off him, but takes out his man in doing so. Free kick, just to the left of centre. Atiemwen’s eyes light up … but though he gets the ball up and down over the wall, it’s always flying wide and over, and De Gea had it covered anyway.
26 min: A free kick for United out on the left. Eriksen sends it flat into the Sheriff box. Varane can’t get his header on target. Goal kick.
24 min: McTominay crosses from the right by Ronaldo can’t get his head on it. United keep patient and come again, this time down the left. Fernandes hooks into the box. Still no joy for Ronaldo, but United look confident when they attack.
22 min: Sheriff come this close to equalising. Rasheed probes down the left flank and cuts back up the wing for Atiemwen, who strides purposefully infield and lashes a fierce daisycutter towards the bottom-left corner. Inches wide. Had that been on target, De Gea wasn’t getting there.
21 min: That’s also a great response from Sancho to being left out of the England squad. He celebrated with the quiet air of a man who feels he’s just proved a point.
19 min: Sheriff had been the better side up until that goal, although United had spent the couple of minutes before it finding their range, and slowly building up to something. And here we are!
United come again, and take the lead with a lovely goal. Eriksen takes a step down the middle, surveys the terrain, then rolls a pass into the Sheriff box for Sancho, who shifts the ball to his left, then swivels and sweeps a precise shot into the bottom right. That’s such an assured finish.
16 min: McTominay slides a ball down the left. Sancho picks it up and sashays along the byline and into the box. Kiki comes across to clear, but United are beginning to make a few in-roads now.
15 min: Eriksen, quarterbacking from deep, launches long down the inside-right channel. The ball drops over Ronaldo’s shoulder. He prepares to shoot, but he’s barged off the ball by Kiki. The ball bounces out for a goal kick. An incensed Ronaldo demands a penalty, but the referee – who has already shown a willingness to let things go – isn’t interested in awarding one at all. It’s the correct decision: Ronaldo went down far too easily and it looked a fair shoulder barge anyway.
13 min: McTominay makes a no-nonsense challenge on Badolo, then nearly slips Ronaldo free with a long pass down the middle. Kpozo intercepts to put a stop to the caper.
12 min: Diop has a rake from distance. Always flying miles over.
11 min: Ouattara runs at Malacia down the right again. He’s dragged back as he prepares to pick up speed, and the United full back is slightly fortunate not to go into the book. He might have used up all his early-game benefit of the doubt, though.
9 min: Ronaldo’s poor touch, while under no pressure whatsoever, allows Badolo to nick the ball off his toe. That pretty much sums up United’s ponderous start in a nutshell.
7 min: Diop whips into the United box from the right. Varane clears under pressure from Atiemwen. This is a confident start by Sheriff.
6 min: Ouattara is barged over by Malacia as he skitters down the right touchline. He simply bounces straight back up and begins dribbling again. A refreshing attitude.
4 min: De Gea passes the ball out of play under pressure from Rasheed. Nothing comes of the resulting throw, deep in United territory, but Sheriff look up for pressing the keeper, who is never the most confident with the ball at his feet.
2 min: Kiki goes long, looking for Rasheed up front. Varane comes across to sweep up easily enough.
United get the ball rolling. They pass it around a bit before Dalot ships possession. Kpozo tries to make good down the left but runs out of room. United get the ball back.
Here come the teams! Sheriff in black, United in second-choice white. No word from Erik ten Hag. We’ll be off in a minute.
Pre-match postbag. “You have to wonder if Casemiro was the manager’s choice or another ‘commercial decision’ (panic buy) by the board,” writes Neil Carter. “Martinez and Antony both go straight into the team and yet Casemiro languishes on the bench due to the ‘amazing form’ of McTominay. You pay £70 million for a 30 year old YOU PLAY HIM surely? Jeez.”
Match-fitness issues, maybe? Still not quite up to speed with the United / Ten Hag Way, perhaps? Having said that, BT Sport have just shown a montage of the erstwhile Real Madrid man spreading it gloriously about Old Trafford last week, so he can’t be that far off. Paul Scholes was particularly purring over a pass that took out half of Sociedad’s midfield with one cute round-the-corner dink. Of course he was.
A reminder of what happened against Real Sociedad last Thursday …
… and how that left the Group E table.
Manchester United make five changes to the starting XI selected for the 0-1 home loss to Real Sociedad. Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, Scott McTominay, Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane step up; Harry Maguire, Fred, Casemiro, Anthony Elanga and Victor Lindelof are benched. Given United haven’t played for a week and won’t play after tonight until the Manchester derby on October 2, Erik ten Tag is giving us a fair idea of his optimal first XI here. Poor Harry.
Sheriff: Koval, Zohouri, Gabi, Radeljic, Kpozo, Badolo, Kyabou, Diop, Rasheed, Atiemwen, Ouattara.
Subs: Celeadnic, Heron, Felipe Vizeu, Darankoum, Salifu, Pernambuco, Pascenco, Guedes.
Manchester United: de Gea, Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia, McTominay, Eriksen, Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Sancho, Ronaldo.
Subs: Lindelof, Maguire, Fred, Casemiro, Heaton, Shaw, Elanga, Garnacho, Iqbal, McNeill, Vitek.
Referee: Pawel Raczkowski (Poland).
“When you lose the first game, you have to win the second, so we know what our task is.” Erik ten Hag, ladies and gentlemen, distilling this match into pure dramatic tincture. Sip up! Kick off is at 5.45pm BST. It’s on!