Call it struggling. You may also say it was sub-par or hard-earned.
Either way, they all best describe how Manchester united performed against Anderlecht on Thursday in their Europa League quarterfinals match at Old Trafford.
Only a Marcus Rashord goal, a dramatic one in extra time, saved the Red Devils from humiliation as the Red Devils pulled off a scrambling 2-1 win that sealed a 3-2 aggregate triumph over the Belgian side. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw after United conceded a late goal at Stade Constant Vanden Stock in Brussels.
At last, United are in the semifinals, but only after labouring on their homeground.
The same player who played the hero’s role in their 2-0 win over Chelsea in the Premier League at the weekend, the 19-year-old Rashford struck with a well-taken shot in the 107th minute.
Rashford picked up a Marcos Fellaini assist, worked some space for him and fired a left-footed strike beyond reach of Anderlecht goalkeeper Ruben as home fans who were earlier in anxious moments finally celebrated jubilantly.
Two-last ditch efforts from Acheampong and Kara threatened United but both of their headers did not find the mark.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scored the United goal in the first leg, posted his fifth goal of the competition as the hosts led after 10 minutes, but the visitors levelled the count through captain Sofiane Hanni in the 32nd.
Although United had chances to score more in the second half behind Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anderlecht were lucky enough to force extension.
Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo were both taken off with injuries in a blow for United but Rashford’s feat somehow eased that pain as the Red Devils kept their hopes alive of capturing continental silverware and a slot in next season’s Champions League.
In the 92nd minute of regulation, Ibrahimovic landed badly after a high ball tackle on Kara for a high ball, while Rojo was taken off in the first half after suffering a knee injury.
Rashford himself admitted United won via the hard way but their patience in trying to create chances enabled them to overcome the gutsy Belgians.
“All you can do is keep trying to create chances and that is what we kept doing,’’ said Rashford.
Yeah right. A win is a win no matter how it was fashioned out and United manager Jose Mourinho would surely agree to that.
But the Red Devils face an enormous task in the Last Four in the event Ibrahimovic and Rojo are eventually sidelined by their recent injuries.
In any case, there are other key United players who are ready to rise to the occasion anytime, anywhere.
One of them is none other than Rashford.