Manchester United would be left contemplating their missed chances as a late mistake allowed Anderlecht to draw their match by 1-1 ahead of the return leg in Old Trafford.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan grabbed the opener for United clever finish from a tight angle gave him his 10th goal of the season.
With eight minutes left from half-time it meant that United would go into the break with the wind in their stride, against hosts who looked very much subdued as Anderlecht’s young team, deprived of possession were only restricted to efforts from distance.
But as the Armenian missed a side-foot effort and Paul Pogba shot straight at the opposition keeper, they were left vulnerable to an equalizer.
It then finally came for Anderlecht as 21-year-old Leander Dendoncker got in front of Matteo Darmian to head an equaliser with the Belgian side’s first effort on goal four minutes from time.
The result meant that coach Jose Mourinho was left to rue the failure of his attackers to be clinical in front of Anderlecht’s goal.
“If I was a Manchester United defender I would be very upset with the attacking players,” Mourinho said. “They did the serious work. The people who had to kill the game didn’t.”
“It is the same problem (against other teams in the Europa League,” added Mourinho. “We had control, we had chances, but we do not score enough goals. In my poor English, I cannot find a better word than sloppy. You have to play more seriously.”
Nonetheless, with an away goal advantage United will still have the better chance chances of advancing to the quarter-finals at Old Trafford next week.
Still, with more dangerous opponents elsewhere in the draw — notably Lyon and Schalke — similar mistakes could easily derail their progress to May’s final.