Man Utd must not take their foot off the gas en route to the Europa League final
A resounding and ultimately dominant 6-2 victory against Roma was enough to see Manchester United put themselves in pole position for a place in the Europa League final.
While it still isn't the strongest scoreline the Red Devils have racked up against the Italian side, it would take some doing to better that 7-1 thrashing dished out in 2007.
Still, the 6-2 comeback win was a positive. Bruno Fernandes was back to his usual productive self and all of United's big hitters managed to contribute to an impressive goal sheet. Considering the inconsistency that has plagued them at Old Trafford this season, seeing them eventually wipe the floor with an esteemed side like Roma was refreshing for fans, even if they weren't there to see it live.
That first half did pose a slight cause for concern, however, and it's something United must be wary of but also use to light a fire in the squad. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side went into half time trailing 2-1 following a flat performance. Their second half made up for it, but they can afford no more slip ups like that.
In fact, scratch that. No more slip ups isn't enough. United need to show ruthless aggression in the second leg and punish Roma completely.
I Giallorossi have struggled tremendously on a domestic front this season. Injuries and inconsistencies have completely derailed Paulo Fonseca's side and resulted in a fresh approach for next season, with Jose Mourinho set to take charge.
Roma have lost 11 games in Serie A so far this season and are stranded in seventh place, while rivals Lazio are some nine points clear ahead of them and fighting for Champions League football. It's been a dismal campaign and confidence among the squad is through the floor with injuries continually depleting the side.
United, meanwhile, flex the muscles of a fully fit squad barring Anthony Martial and Phil Jones, and have been able to mount a fairly successful campaign that looks set to see them finish behind only an astonishingly good Manchester City in the Premier League. Yes, their Champions League exit was disappointing, but they can amend that blemish by winning the Europa League and ending a four year wait for silverware.
It would be easy to head into Thursday's second leg tie with one eye already on the final among the squad, but that breeds complacency and complacency gets punished. A four goal margin sounds fine, but Roma managed to come away from a crushing defeat with two away goals. They only need to score first in Rome on Thursday and suddenly the pressure is on. There have nothing to lose.
Solskjaer has managed to turn around the mentality at United in tremendous fashion, often highlighted by their increased hunger and more ruthless attacking profile. The Red Devils scored five goals or more in a game just twice under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho combined. They've done that nine times under Solskjaer alone.
While there are clearly still issues surrounding Solskjaer and his inability to develop a dominant brand of football for United currently, a growing confidence and belief among the squad is carrying them through games without having to dominate. Having said that, they are beginning to show that they can do it; taking charge of the first leg showed this, as did a comfortable 3-1 victory against a typically stubborn Burnley side in April.
The Red Devils are improving. Going one further to alleviate the semi-final curse looks like a formality, but it is vital that they do it with the right attitude. Bullying Roma in the first leg will feel rather redundant if they don't do the same in the second leg and come away with a win that strikes fear into whoever they will face in the Europa League final.
The best sides are intimidating sides. United can build an aura of intimidation once again by making sure that they put Roma to bed for good in the second leg in Italy. Nobody wants to stumble into a European final, not least the side who are clear favourites to lift the trophy.
United have a chance to end the season on a high by lifting the Europa League. But the best way to do that would be in dominant fashion, and that starts by ensuring Roma are demolished in the second leg to send a message to their eventual opponent in May.
Remorse is a weakness, and United must keep moving from strength to strength.