The EPL season is on our doorstep again and the usual suspects of contenders for the title are being bandied around again.
Manchester United and Inter Milan are through to the semi-finals of the Europa League after victories over Copenhagen and Bayer Leverkusen on Monday.
Favourites Manchester United and Inter Milan both advanced to the semi-finals of the Europa League on Monday, with the Red Devils going through the hard way.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men needed an extra-time penalty from Bruno Fernandes – their 21st spot-kick of the season – to beat Copenhagen 1-0.
Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1, after an inspired performance from former United man Romelu Lukaku.
In sweltering heat, United’s young team controlled the lion’s share of possession but had a hard time creating clear chances until Andreas Bjelland brought down Anthony Martial in the penalty area.
Fernandes blasted the ball past the otherwise excellent goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson to give United the 95th-minute lead.
Mason Greenwood and Fernandes hit the woodwork with shots during normal time and earlier video reviews cost United two of their best opportunities to score.
First, VAR scratched off a United penalty for offside in the buildup. Just before the break Greenwood put the ball in the net after a lightning break down the right flank but the replay showed he’d been just offside when Marcus Rashford’s pass was played.
That decision was a particular blow for United after the apparent breakthrough goal came just as the English team had seemed to be getting frustrated and taking increasingly speculative shots against a Danish team playing their first-ever European quarter-final.
“Their keeper had probably the game of his life, he was really good, but then again I could say we need to be more clinical in knockout games,” United manager Solskjaer said.
In Dusseldorf, Lukaku scored one goal and set up another as Inter defeated a tenacious Leverkusen.
Lukaku was the driving force from the start, imposing himself on the game and disrupting the Leverkusen defence to keep Inter in the hunt for their first trophy in nine years.
When Nicolo Barella gave Inter the lead in the 15th minute it was off a rebound from a shot of Lukaku’s which had been blocked. Six minutes later, Lukaku scored after a link up with Ashley Young.
Just as Inter threatened to overwhelm Leverkusen, the German team kept themselves in the game.
Kai Havertz played a one-two with Kevin Volland and fired the ball past goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to cut the gap to a single goal four minutes after Lukaku scored.
Lukaku showed plenty of humility after his dominant performance, saying: “To me, the man of the match is Nicolo Barella.
“The way he plays football is simply incredible – maturity, quality. He is truly a great player.”
Inter play the winner of Shakhtar Donetsk and Basel, who meet on Thursday, in the semi-finals on August 17. United will meet the winner of Tuesday’s clash between England’s Wolves or Spanish club Sevilla for a spot in the final.