Europa League | Attendance: 71,000 | Scorers: Pogba 31 pen, 45+1, Martial 34 pen, Lingard 48; van Persie 83
Manchester United boosted their hopes of qualifying for the Europa League knockout stages with a convincing 4-1 victory over Turkish side Fenerbahce at Old Trafford.
The Reds took a while to get going before penalties from Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial – and another stunning effort from Pogba – gave the hosts a firm first-half cushion.
The impressive Jesse Lingard added further gloss shortly after the break and, although Robin van Persie scored on his anticipated Old Trafford return, Jose Mourinho’s men earned a second win in Group A to sit second at the halfway point, ahead of facing the Turks again in a fortnight’s time at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.
Mourinho kept his promise to name a strong team in the middle of a busy week, despite making seven changes from Monday’s goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield. Captain Wayne Rooney returned to the starting line-up against the side he scored a memorable hat-trick against on his United debut in 2004 and Luke Shaw came in for his first appearance in a month.
Meanwhile, United fans gave former striker van Persie a warm welcome back on his first appearance at the Theatre of Dreams since his successful three-year spell with the Reds came to an end last year.
United made an assertive start with plenty of early possession as the visitors sat back in numbers in the opening exchanges. The first notable effort at goal took 15 minutes to arrive but Pogba found ex-Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel in his way before Martial was inches away from converting Juan Mata’s delightful cross at the back post.
But after a slow start in which chances were at a premium, United seized control with two quick-fire spotkicks just after the half-hour mark. Mata brought down Michael Carrick’s pinpoint pass and was impeded by Simon Kjaer, allowing Pogba to send Fenerbache keeper Volkan Demirel the wrong way.
Less than three minutes later, French referee Benoit Bastien pointed to the spot again after Martial was bundled over by Sener Ozbayrakli and took over the responsibility to bury the spot-kick into the same left-hand corner.
Fenerbahce almost responded immediately when Souza checked inside of Eric Bailly inside the box but his low shot was kept out by an alert David De Gea.
United wrapped up a fine first half in style when Rooney’s cross found Jesse Lingard, who laid the ball off for Pogba to guide a sublime 20-yard shot into the top corner for his second of the game.
HALF TIME STATS
Possession: United 64% Fenerbahce 36%
Shots: United 6 Fenerbahce 1
Shots on target: United 3 Fenerbahce 1
Corners: United 1 Fenerbahce 3
Both sides made half-time alterations as Marcos Rojo replaced Chris Smalling in the United defence, while former Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat boldly introduced striker Emmanuel Emineke in place of booked defender Kjaer for Fenerbahce. But any comeback hopes were firmly extinguished by a rasping effort from Lingard three minutes after the restart. The England midfielder was picked out by Rooney and rifled past Demirel from the edge of the box.
With the Reds well in control, Fenerbahce came back into the game and van Persie received a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful when marking his homecoming with the goal he craved, tapping in Emenike’s cross from close range. De Gea then had to be alert to push away Souza’s long-range effort as the Turks threatened again.
United could have widened the margins further as Mata and substitute Tim Fosu-Mensah brought saves from Demirel but it was a satisfying evening for the Reds, who return to Premier League action on Sunday against Chelsea, when Mourinho makes his eagerly awaited return to Stamford Bridge.
FULL TIME STATS
Possession: United 61% Fenerbahce 39%
Shots: United 11 Fenerbahce 6
Shots on target: United 6 Fenerbahce 3
Corners: United 2 Fenerbahce 7
United: De Gea; Darmian, Smalling (Rojo 45), Bailly, Shaw; Carrick, Pogba (Fosu-Mensah 75); Mata, Rooney, Lingard (Memphis 66); Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, Fellaini, Ibrahimovic, Rashford.
Fenerbahce: Demirel; Sener, Skrtel, Kjaer (Emenike 45), Kaldirim; Souza, Topal, Neustadter; Potuk, van Persie, Volkan (Koybasi 69).
Subs not used: Fabiano, Civelek, Koca, Stoch.