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26th Feb 2016

Manchester United 5-1 FC Midtjylland: Old Trafford revels in the rare joy of pure unadulterated United

Nooruddean Choudry

It was only Midtjylland FFS.

A side that has played fewer games than Ryan Giggs. A club that is younger than Anthony Martial. Yes it was only Midtjylland, but Old Trafford didn’t much care. Because for one night only, they had their Manchester United back.

Worse sides have entered the Theatre of Broken Dreams and encountered a cold porridge of the team. For the locals it has been agonising. James’ famous lyrics declaring ‘If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor’ have worn thin with repetition.


But on Thursday night, in a competition that never used to matter, against a team that didn’t used to exist, there was a brief flicker of the old fire. Everything that the fans have slowly seen ebb away was rekindled, and all those warm feelings returned.

The fact it was ‘only Midtjylland’ was lost on no one. But it was ‘only Midtjylland’ that humbled the Red Devils a fortnight ago. This time around the English side were weaker, less experienced and seemingly ripe for yet another humiliation.

When Anthony Martial, the one quantum of solace for the support in a season of guff, was injured in the warm-up, it felt like game – and season – over. Academy novice Marcus Rashford was drafted in to fill the gap and just try to make up the numbers.

Manchester United v FC Midtjylland - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg : News Photo

United started brightly enough, but the Danes soon took the lead against the run of play. It had the all too familiar stink of one of those nights. A hotchpotch rabble of under-performing stars and clueless youngsters all blowing out of their arses to little end.

But what transpired was a something of a revelation. Memphis Depay, a player whom many fans had already dismissed as an expensive mistake, decided that this was his night to reintroduce himself as a genuine talent. His skills sparkled, but his heart is what really impressed.

The Dutchman, no veteran himself at 22, was the unlikely talisman driving the home side forward and scaring the living daylights out of the Midtjylland defence. And he was ably assisted by a troop of youngsters who didn’t get the memo about nervous and sh*te.

Manchester United v FC Midtjylland - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg : News Photo

Guillermo Varela and debutant Joe Riley were daring and assured on either flank, whilst Rashford had the sort of night that’s beyond dreams. He expected to be a cosy onlooker on the bench, but was hurriedly told to perform Martial’s role. He did so with unbelievable aplomb.

United played with verve, vigour, style and pace. Youngsters grew into their shirts and made the fans feel that rare emotion they’d not experienced for a while – pride. The stadium revelled in the simple pleasure of a rollicking good win. They wouldn’t have cared if it was against laid out cones.

Come the weekend, the warm glow may fizzle away. Normal service may resume. But for one night only, United were back – and for the locals it was fun again.


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