Marcus Rashford’s stunning free-kick 23 minutes from time put Manchester United on the brink of reaching the Europa League final with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Celta Vigo on Thursday.
Celta goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez kept the Spaniards in the tie before half-time with a string of saves to deny Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jese Lingard.
However, he was wrong-footed by Rashford’s free-kick as United took a giant step towards reaching the final in Stockholm on May 24.
And United manager Jose Mourinho hailed his wonder kid who has stepped up in the absence of top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to cruciate ligament damage.
“He’s a 19-year-old kid in love with football,” said Mourinho.
“He works, he’s mature and what matters is not his age but his quality.”
Rashford’s 11th goal of the season was just reward for United’s superiority as they close in on not just the prestige of winning the Europa League for the first time, but also the prize of guaranteed Champions League football next season it would bring.
Celta, by contrast, failed to rise to the challenge of their first ever European semi-final, but they did have the first big chance just 10 minutes in.
Nemanja Radoja’s cross picked out the unmarked Daniel Wass, but the Dane miscued his header horribly wide with just Sergio Romero to beat.
Thereafter, it fell on Alvarez to keep Celta in the game before the break.
His best stop came on 21 minutes when Rashford took aim from just outside the box and his shot was curling into the top corner only for Alvarez’s fingertips to turn the ball behind.
Pione Sisto shot to fame by scoring twice for Midtjylland against United in last season’s Europa League, but couldn’t repeat the trick when his tame effort was easily claimed by Romero.
Paul Pogba was making his return after missing United’s last two outings, and the world’s most expensive player looked a class apart in midfield.
A powerful run from the Frenchman teed up Mkhitaryan for the visitors best chance of the first 45 minutes.
However, Alvarez rushed from his line to block from the Armenian.