MANCHESTER, England -- In the end, it was a routine 3-0 win for Manchester United against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League on Thursday night.
Goals from Diogo Dalot, Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo assured the result in Ronaldo's first match back since being sidelined by manager Erik ten Hag.
- Report: Man United-Sheriff | Europa League table | Upcoming fixtures
With the result, Man United stay on course to continue through the Europa League.
ESPN's Rob Dawson has reaction and analysis from Old Trafford.
JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. Man United progress and set up showdown with Real Sociedad
Manchester United were expected to beat FC Sheriff and they did, with a result that guarantees progress into the Europa League knockout rounds -- but there is still plenty riding on the final round of group games and the trip to Real Sociedad next week.
The Spanish side's 2-0 win over Omonia Nicosia means United will kick off in San Sebastian second in Group E, three points adrift. Win by at least two clear goals and Man United manager Erik ten Hag's team will top the group and go straight in the last 16. Anything less, and they will face a last-32 tie against a team dropping down from the Champions League. As things stand, that could be Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico Madrid or Sevilla.
Ten Hag will want to avoid extra games further congesting an already packed schedule and meeting one of Europe's heavyweights risks any further progress in the Europa League -- a competition that could get United into next season's Champions League if they miss out on a place in Premier League's top four.
Expect Ten Hag to pick another strong team in Spain next week and do everything he can to finish top of the group.
2. Ronaldo eventually gets his goal on return to the team
Ronaldo was thrown straight back into the team by Ten Hag after being dropped for the draw at Chelsea for disciplinary reasons, and on a different day he could have marked his return with a hat-trick. Instead, he finally got his lone goal in the 80th minute -- his first at Old Trafford since May.
By the time he scored on Thursday, the 37-year-old had already seen one header go inches over the crossbar, goalkeeper Maksym Koval stop another close range effort with his foot, and then a second-half volley hit the net before it was immediately ruled out for offside. It was at that last point Ronaldo let his frustration boil over -- he picked the ball out of the goal and blasted it high into the Stretford End.
When a late free-kick hit the Sheriff wall and bounced away for a throw-in, it looked like Ronaldo was in for another fruitless night, but just seconds later he was running away to celebrate club career goal No. 701. His header from Bruno Fernandes' cross was well saved by Koval but Ronaldo was quickest in the penalty area to smash in the rebound.
Whether these are the final acts of Ronaldo's second stint at United or not, he is still more than capable of scoring goals at the highest level.
3. Garnacho shines on full debut
There's a lot expected of Alejandro Garnacho, the 18-year-old forward signed from Atletico Madrid in 2020, and against FC Sheriff he showed that the excitement is justified.
Handed his first United start, the teenager gave Renan Guedes a torrid time -- flying past the Sheriff full-back as early as the 14th minute to set up a chance for Ronaldo. Midway through the second half, Guedes got so sick of seeing Garnacho whizz by that he was reduced to chopping him down and taking a yellow card.
There is a lot of competition for places in the attacking positions at Old Trafford, but Garnacho has done enough to show he deserves opportunities to impress. Anthony Martial is still sidelined because of injury while Jadon Sancho, on the bench against Sheriff, is struggling for form and with five games left before the World Cup, Garnacho should get more chances before the break.
Even on his first senior start, he looked far more dangerous and direct than Sancho has looked for a while.
Ten Hag will have to manage the Argentina youth international carefully given his age, but at the very least he's proved he can perform on the big stage.
Man United: De Gea 7, Dalot 8, Malacia 7, Lindelof 7, Martinez 7, Casemiro 7, Eriksen 7, Fernandes 7, Antony 4, Garnacho 8, Ronaldo 7.
Subs: Maguire 6, Rashford 7, Shaw 7, McTominay 6, Van de Beek 6.
FC Sheriff: Koval 6, Guedes 5, Kpozo 5, Kiki 6, Radeljic 6, Diop 6, Kyabou 6, Mudasiru 6, Rasheed 5, Badolo 5, Atiemwen 5.
Subs: Hatman 6, Pernambuco 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Alejandro Garnacho, Manchester United
The 18-year-old looked very sharp and impressed on his first senior start for United.
WORST: Antony, Manchester United
The winger didn't do anything to hurt FC Sheriff, needlessly showboated with a spin move, and was substituted at half-time.
Highlights and notable moments
Shortly before halftime, Manchester United finally found the breakthrough, courtesy of Diogo Dalot scoring his first goal in a European competition for the club.
Christian Eriksen lofted a corner kick into the box and Dalot got a head to it, guiding it past goalkeeper Maksym Koval.
Diogo Dalot feels the pulse as he grabs first European goal for Man Utd. 💥 pic.twitter.com/mrD02Czw0N— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 27, 2022
Marcus Rashford then doubled Man United's lead in the 65th minute.
The team pinged the ball around before a Luke Shaw cross found Rashford's head.
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 27, 2022
Marcus Rashford has Man Utd's second, a well worked team goal. 👏
The ball from Luke Shaw. 🥶 pic.twitter.com/yQYYl2dDiC
After trying all night, coming close in the first half if not for Koval save, Cristiano Ronaldo finally got on the scoresheet himself in the 80th minute.
His header was blocked by Koval, but Ronaldo followed it through for the tap-in.
Cristiano Ronaldo scores on his return to the Man Utd squad. 💫 pic.twitter.com/nOZT4V337l— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 27, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag asked if Antony's half-time substitution was a reaction to his showboating: "No. It was more or less planned if we were up. I wanted to see Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo close together and the dynamic on the right side."
Ten Hag on Ronaldo's performance: "Seeing Ronaldo get his goal was great. He created, the team created for him and we know he has the capability to finish. He needed a goal and now I'm confident there will be more goals."
Marcus Rashford on the next fixture against Real Sociedad: "We have to go there and score by two goals. We have to score goals but defend well. It is going to be a tough game but looking forward to the challenge."
Marcus Rashford registered five goals and two assists in all of last season. Through 14 games this season he has already surpassed that: he has six goals and three assists.
Cristiano Ronaldo has 3 goals versus 5.67 expected goals in all competitions this season. That difference of -2.67 ranks 531st out of 537 players to have taken at least 10 shots in all competitions this season among players from Europe's top five leagues.
Ronaldo ranks first in unblocked shots taken in Europa League with 22.
Manchester United: The Red Devils return to Premier League action on Sunday, Oct. 30 when they host West Ham United at 12:15 p.m. ET. Then they shift gears back to the Europa League when they travel to San Sebastián, Spain to face Real Sociedad on Thursday, Nov. 3.
Sheriff Tiraspol: The Moldovan side resumes its Europa League run on Thursday, Nov. 3, hosting Omonia Nicosia.