Gianluca Mancini made the headlines before kick-off, getting moved up into midfield to make up for Roma’s all-around fitness problems. But less than a half-hour into this game, Mancini would have to move back to defense as Roma defender Chris Smalling was subbed off with an injury. Up until that point, Roma had done a good job getting out the blocks early in this game and threatening United’s goal, giving the visitors more than enough warnings to wake up and start playing despite United’s sizeable aggregate lead.
So that’s exactly what Man Utd did before half-time. In the 39th minute, Gianluca Mancini pushed up as expected, but he was punished for leaving a gap behind him because teammate Bryan Cristante had completely fallen asleep and let his counterpart Fred run in uncontested behind Mancini before Fred played in Cavani on goal. Cavani scored to put United ahead on the night, in a match that Roma could have easily led up to that point. But Roma would hit back in the second half.
First came Edin’s Dzeko’s headed goal in the 57th minute, salvaging what had been a rock-bottom performance from Dzeko until that moment. Then Cristante redeemed his own sloppy first-half error by blasting Roma into the lead on the hour. That was just the beginning of an impromptu Roma blitz on United’s goal that could have easily tripled Roma’s lead on the night, within ten minutes of play. But United keeper David De Gea snuffed out a lot of the threat and deservedly takes home tonight’s MOTM award.
There was time for Cavani to put an end to Roma’s flurry, as he ghosted in behind Roma’s defense for a United equalizer. It was unlucky for Roma, as the Giallorossi defense at sixes and sevens while they waited for Bruno Peres to be subbed off with an injury. That forced Fonseca’s hand to bring on yet more substitutes old and new: Davide Santon, Borja Mayoral, and Roma U-19 topscorer Nicola Zalewski.
And wouldn’t you know it? It was Zalewski who would pop up with the 83rd-minute winner tonight for Roma. In truth, Zalewski’s shot looked off-target before it deflected off a United defender and through the legs of David De Gea. But the final scorelines have awarded the goal to Zalewski, so we’re not going to be the ones to take any credit away from the Roma youngster.