So much of the evening was unnerving. Vigo were dominating possession and it seemed Jose Mourinho was persisting with his philosophy of absorbing the opposition no matter how strong or weak they seem. Fortunately, they overcame the sluggish start when Marcus Rashford was on the ball.
The youngster has stardust in his boots and the momentum temporarily shifted when he picked out Marouane Fellaini on 17 minutes.
United felt they were on the way to Stockholm then and it should have been a procession but this was a spirited display from the visitors who kept possession for much of the night and kept the game on edge.
But what more can Rashford do to convince Jose he is the long-term solution in attack? Score more? Create more? Sign up to Jorge Mendes’ agency?
There was a telling moment midway through the first half when Mourinho chastised Ander Herrera for taking a short free-kick when he had the option of swinging high into the Vigo penalty area.
The inclusion of Marouane Fellaini may provoke a collective sigh from United supporters, but there is no misunderstanding its purpose. The Belgian always has a specific task, namely to get into opposition territory and beseech his team mates to move the ball skywards in his direction.
This may not have happened enough to Mourinho’s satisfaction, but virtually all of Sergio Romero’s goal kicks were aimed to Fellaini.
The Spanish side struggled to deal with the unorthodox midfielder’s physicality, but this was a Plan A rather than Plan B from United.
Vigo were superior for much of the night, unrecognisable from the first leg. Romero was the busier keeper and John Guidetti was wasteful until the end despite Facundo Roncaglia setting up a frantic finale.
Such brinkmanship can be a healthy habit when the outcome is positive, but disconcerting when United toil as they did here – getting through games without outplaying the opponent.
As a foundation for improvement next season it is more encouraging for United fans. Once Mourinho has added more elements to his squad – primarily more creativity and pace in wide areas – many of those draws this season will be transformed into victories.
In the meantime, they progress to a European final in Mourinho’s first season. His critics can snipe about this club’s greater aspirations and transfer budgets as much as they wish, but it is a notable achievement which any side would celebrate.
Arguably his most disciplined performance for United, or certainly one of them. He sat in midfield and did the simple things well, earning rich applause for one particularly well-timed tackle on Pione Sisto on the edge of his own penalty area.
There will still be those who want more than this for the £89 million investment, but he kept his cool while others lost theirs.
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