Europa League: Martial penalty earns Manchester United three points against Partizan

Anthony Martial's goal proved to be the difference as Manchester United salvaged three points from its Europa League encounter against Partizan.

Anthony Martial converts from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League group L match between Partizan and Manchester United. in Belgrade, Serbia   -  GETTY IMAGES

Manchester United finally enjoyed away-day success as Anthony Martial's 43rd-minute penalty earned an unconvincing 1-0 win over Partizan Belgrade, lifting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men to the top of Group L in the Europa League.

Prior to Thursday's contest in Serbia, United had gone 11 matches without an away win in all competitions - its worst such run in 40 years - since beating Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League back in March.

Yet the Red Devils' travelling support were finally given reason to celebrate again as a spot-kick from Martial - making his first start since August 24 following injury - was complemented by the club's third clean sheet in as many Europa League matches this term.

United's overall performance was far from impressive and a lack of creativity was again apparent as a side showing seven changes from Sunday's encouraging 1-1 draw with Liverpool failed to muster a single shot on target besides Martial's penalty.

However, the result will at least please Solskjaer as the 2016-17 Europa League winners is firmly on course to reach the knockout stages having claimed seven points from three games.

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The only clear-cut chance of a turgid opening half-hour, in which United dominated possession, saw Scott McTominay wastefully head wide at the far post from Juan Mata's inviting 15th-minute free-kick.

A brief spell of Partizan pressure heralded a significant rise in entertainment value, with the fit-again Jesse Lingard and Umar Sadiq each striking the post in quick succession.

Martial then calmly sent Vladimir Stojkovic the wrong way from 12 yards, after Brandon Williams' surging run into the hosts' box had drawn a clear foul from Nemanja Miletic.

United was pegged back for much of the second half, though, and had to survive a succession of penalty appeals from Partizan, the most convincing arriving in the 67th minute when Miletic's back-post header appeared to strike the arm of Williams.

A furious Miletic was booked for his protests after the referee refused to point to the spot and the hosts' pressure continued to go unrewarded, with Sergio Romero saving sharply from Takuma Asano late on.

What does it mean? A welcome win but not much else for United to cheer

When you have not won in 11 away matches, any success on the road has to be seen as a positive. However, this display will have done little to silence Solskjaer's doubters as United offered precious little attacking threat against modest opposition.

Defensive solidity gets United over the line

While United continues to look worryingly limited from a creative point of view, its defending in the Europa League has been hugely impressive thus far. Partizan huffed and puffed throughout the second period, but the visitors just about held firm in Harry Maguire's first game as captain.

Visitors fail to inspire in dire second-half showing

United offered next to nothing in an attacking sense during the second period, even after the introductions of Marcus Rashford and Daniel James on the hour. It was a difficult watch at times, with Solskjaer's side never looking likely to extend their lead.

What's next? 

This was the first of four consecutive away games for United, which travel to Norwich City in the Premier League on Sunday. Partizan hosts Spartak Subotica on the same day, while the reverse Europa League fixture takes place at Old Trafford on November 7.

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