Scott McTominay spares Manchester United’s blushes against Omonia Nicosia | Europa League

Manchester United came close to rueing their failure to claim three points before Scott McTominay scored a stoppage-time winner to give them hope of winning Group E and avoiding a knockout tie against a Champions League-eliminated opponent.

That might be one of Barcelona, Milan, Juventus and Atlético Madrid, none of whom Erik ten Hag’s fledgling team would relish facing. Tonight they had lacked ruthlessness until McTominay’s close-range finish ensured United’s evening ended well.

Ten Hag’s men have Sheriff and Real Sociedad left to play but the Spanish side are three points better off on 12 so remain favourites to top the group.

Cristiano Ronaldo was United’s central striker due to Anthony Martial’s injury, as Ten Hag’s side’s attempted to take a significant step towards qualification against an opponent yet to gather a point before this match.

Omonia Nicosia’s fans, in loud voice before kick-off, saw their side defend two early corners – the first of which featured Marcus Rashford’s shot warming Francis Uzoho’s fingers. There followed a passage of pass-and-move as crisp as this October night, United exerting the control their manager seeks. Rashford, bright throughout the first half, swept a crossfield ball to the right, then later released Ronaldo whose strike hit the side-netting.

Ronaldo’s next offering was to take Tyrell Malacia’s driven pass with aplomb, swivel on to his left, and shoot. This earned another corner and Rashford intervened again, swapping passes with Bruno Fernandes ahead of the captain steering wide from an angle on the left.

Fernandes loves to fizz about and be involved and when the Omonia forward Bruno hit a free-kick into United’s area there he was to clear. From an Omonia corner, Fernandes broke and overcooked a ball aimed for Ronaldo’s charge into the area.

Francis Uzoho saves Marcus Rashford’s shot
Francis Uzoho saves Marcus Rashford’s shot. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

The best hope for Neil Lennon’s side was a quick break. When Andronikos Kakoulli sprinted down the right, Lisandro Martínez had to block. Omonia’s manager was noticeably chagrined, perhaps at his team’s lack of urgency, allowing United to hog the ball on their own terms. One phase ended with Fernandes simply tapping left to Rashford and he was in and shooting – but only at an advancing Uzoho. Rashford came close again when dancing into Omonia’s area, leaving a turquoise-shirted defender on his backside, though his effort was stymied once more.

The 24-year-old’s act dazzled: now he swerved infield and hit a curving attempt that required Uzoho to leap left and save. United’s 77.6% possession at the half-hour mark was indicative of their dominance. Needed was a goal – or two – to make this count. Ronaldo took a turn to try, a classy pirouette followed by a cute dink –which was the polar opposite to how Casemiro, from 20 yards, crashed the ball against Uzoho’s bar.

When Malacia and Rashford crafted a passing triangle inside Omonia’s area and the left-back drilled the ball into Ronaldo, the forward may have missed – but the move was reminiscent of how Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City breach many sides: encouraging for Ten Hag who wishes to construct a possession-based unit.

However the half ended with warnings for United: Bruno skated in behind and had Kakoulli free and begging to be set-up but he blazed over. Then Diogo Dalot mis-hit a pass that allowed Kakoulli in and as David de Gea charged out, Martínez barged the Omonia striker aside. It appeared a foul – maybe even a red card as the defender was the last man – but the referee, Jérôme Brisard, was not interested and neither, oddly, was the VAR.

Antony and Rashford continued United’s frustration after the interval. At least the Brazilian forced Uzoho into a sharp save. Rashford’s follow-up was tame with what was an easy opening. Further carelessness ensued when Malacia latched on to a Fernandes pass and the left-back could not beat the impressive Uzoho. Neither could Ronaldo when the ball appeared before him.

Last week Ten Hag praised United’s calmness when going behind in Cyprus. The same quality had to be shown in this return fixture and, surely, the breakthrough would come. But two Fernandes corners, an Antony cross that missed Ronaldo, and Rashford steering wide when clean through all lacked composure. So off came Antony and Malacia for Jadon Sancho and Luke Shaw.

A combination from the new arrivals that sought to put Fernandes in augured well yet the clock ticked down. Rashford, for seemingly the umpteenth time, spurned an opportunity before Casemiro escaped serious injury after a two-footed Moreto Cassamá lunge.

To win, Ten Hag now introduced Christian Eriksen’s savvy. He probed and unloaded a couple to no avail. But McTominay, on later, ended the hero to send United fans home happy.

Cristiano Ronaldo to fight FA charge of improper and/or violent conduct | Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo will be supported by Manchester United as they attempt to ensure he does not receive a multi-game ban when answering a Football Association charge of improper and/or violent conduct regarding the knocking to the ground of a young Everton fan’s phone after the defeat at Goodison Park on 9 April.

Ronaldo has been cautioned by Merseyside police in August after it reviewed video footage and he is not expected to deny the charge but wishes to explain the circumstance and any mitigation. Erik ten Hag said the club would help Ronaldo, who has until Monday to respond to the FA.

“We talked about that and he will not accept it,” the manager said, meaning Ronaldo will not accept an automatic penalty but will put his case.

United host Omonoia Nicosiaon Thursday in their fourth Europa League Group E match, looking to complete the double over the Cypriot club after beating them 3-2 last week. Anthony Martial is unavailable because of the back problem sustained in Sunday’s 2-1 win at Everton. Ten Hag understands the frustration, the striker having also had hamstring and achilles problems this season.

“I’ve had several talks with him about that,” he said. “I’m really disappointed for him – from the quality in all the minutes [this season] he played he did very well, also Sunday. He played well, a good assist for Antony for the first goal, but also in the pressing he was really good. He was an important factor that played well in the first half.”

Martial is not training and may also miss Sunday’s visit of Newcastle. “We will see how he develops,” Ten Hag said.

If United finish second they will face a playoff against a third-ranked team from the Champions League group phase. “I told the players weeks ago before the break that it’s important to get No 1 in this group,” Ten Hag said. “Our aim is always to win all the games, but it’s clear and we want to avoid that.”

Erik ten Hag praises Manchester United’s composure in comeback win | Manchester United

Erik ten Hag denied that Manchester United’s shaky 3-2 win at Omonia Nicosia was as concerning a performance as Sunday’s 6-3 defeat at Manchester City.

United went behind on 33 minutes at the GSP Stadium to Karim Ansarifard’s strike, which occurred when Bruno Felipe broke away with no defender between him and David de Gea’s goal, and Ten Hag’s side subsequently lost composure until the break. Omonia came into the Group E match having won only once in European competition-proper in their last 26 matches. Given all of this, it was put to the manager that the display was as worrying as the derby loss at the Etihad Stadium.

“No,” he said. “I think it was a bad 10 minutes after we conceded the goal. It’s not easy against an opponent who are so compact to create chances, and we created a lot of chances.

“And when you get down against an opponent like this they get more energy and they fight for [their] lives. If you are able to come back you have the performance that you need – a win. We dealt with the setback, came back and that’s a positive from a mentality area but you can’t compare this with the game on Sunday.”

Tyrell Malacia and Jadon Sancho were both at fault for Ansarifard’s opener. Ten Hag replaced them at half-time with Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford and he was asked if this was why. “It was not what I was unhappy with – it was the movement with our ball, the width on the left side, for me was no good first half,” said the Dutchman. “The movement from behind the defending line, so I hoped with Luke and Marcus we could get more effect from that and in my opinion that happens.”

Rashford scored twice and Anthony Martial once in United’s comeback, with Nikolas Panagiotou registering Omonia’s second towards the end. The win takes United to six points from three games.

Of the overall display, Ten Hag said: “I would call it: ‘[We] stay composed.’ This can always happen – football is a game of mistakes. The first 30 minutes we played quite well, the only thing we didn’t do was score a goal – when you score a goal you make your life easy.

“We didn’t, then we conceded a goal and it was the worst 10 minutes of the game from us. After half-time, we dealt well with the setback.”

Marcus Rashford doubles down on Omonia to spare Manchester United | Europa League

Erik ten Hag applied a desperately required change to save Manchester United from a second humiliation in four days. Losing at the interval, the Dutchman brought on Marcus Rashford then and Anthony Martial a little later and they scored the goals that turned embarrassing defeat into Group E victory.

Nothing, though, can hide the faultlines in Ten Hag’s team which are hardly news: no discernible possession-based attack patterns and a defence that is amateurish as illustrated by Karim Ansarifard’s breakaway opener.

For a while – from 33 to 53 minutes and Rashford’s equaliser – Neil Lennon’s men could dream of handing Ten Hag the type of seismic loss suffered by three of his four post-Sir Alex Ferguson predecessors.

Omonia, who had won only once in their last 26 European games before tonight, threatened to emulate Olympiakos, in 2014, who beat David Moyes’s United 2-0; MK Dons (2015) – 4-0 over Louis van Gaal’s side – and Istanbul Basaksehir, 2-1 against Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team, two years ago.

In Bruno Felipe’s 40-yard free run at David De Gea’s goal that set up Ansarifard – after Tyrell Malacia ceded possession from a Jadon Sancho pass following Christian Eriksen’s free-kick – was an unwanted echo of how Demba Ba did similarly when scoring for Basaksehir following a United corner in November 2020.

Yet despite Omonia giving United a further scare at the end when making it 3-2, United escaped following Sunday’s 6-3 trouncing at Manchester City without a further confidence-draining result. Here, unlike at the Etihad Stadium, they showed courage though against this level of opposition it should never have been as close as it was.

Until falling behind United hogged possession. One sequence had Casemiro, Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes and Lisandro Martínez rolling the ball around the opponent before Cristiano Ronaldo, preferred ahead of Rashford, swivelled and had his shot blocked.

Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after missing a chance at goal
Cristiano Ronaldo missed several attempts to reach his 700th-goal milestone. Photograph: Manchester United/Getty Images

Another free-flowing United move featured Fernandes chipping Fabiano but not the bar before Ronaldo’s high-boot from the rebound saved Nicosia as João Pinheiro blew for a foul.

United had never faced a Cypriot team before in competition though had experienced this venue, having lost at the GSP Stadium 3-0 to Maccabi Haifa 20 years ago in a dead Champions League group game, the Israelis using the venue then for security reasons.

Ronaldo, on 699 club goals, aimed for a 700th with a 20-yard free-kick but this went sailing over. Antony’s radar was more accurate when he dipped a shoulder, swept from the right wing on to his left foot, and hit a slicing effort Fabiano flung fingertips at.

But now came Omonia’s moment via the rapid break of Bruno whose run was as cool as the pass to Ansarifard: the Iranian, once of Nottingham Forest, skipped sideways and rifled home and delirium broke out in the stadium apart from the pocket of travelling support who sat stunned.

For the remaining 12 minutes of the period United were a side haunted. Ten Hag had seen enough of Sancho and Malacia, replacing them with Rashford and Luke Shaw at the break. United’s response at the second half’s start had them moving the ball around but when it fell to Eriksen in their area the Dane was unable to keep control. Fernandes, too, could only weakly steer a free-kick into Fabiano’s hands.

Rashford regained composure in the calmest moment for United yet. Initially clumsy when talking Fernandes’s pass, no pressure was applied on the No 10 so he could settle and curl the equaliser beyond Fabiano from range.

This punctured the Cypriots but could United go on and prevail? Ten Hag next switched Fernandes for Martial and this proved another good change. With virtually a first touch the Frenchman swerved inside from the left and beat Fabiano at the near post.

After Ronaldo hit a post, Rashford scored his second, and United should have killed the game. Instead, an unmarked Nikolas Panagiotou made it 3-2 in the closing minutes squeaky posterior time for the visitors.

But, United clung on.