It came on a difficult night in Serbia. One that was prefaced by fears of more racist behaviour from home supporters who were allowed back into the Partizan Stadium after their club was forced to play the last two European games here behind closed doors.
Fortunately, there was no repeat of the problems of the past but this was still noisy and intimidating setting for a United team containing a number of young players. They will be all the stronger for the experience and a win that puts United clear at the top of Group L.
Manchester United were left grateful to Anthony Martial on Thursday as the France striker’s solitary effort ended one of the worst runs away from home in the club’s history. Martial was on target just before half time from the penalty spot to put United 1-0 up away to Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League.
There was no further activity on the scoresheet, meaning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men took all three points in Thursday’s Group L match, maintaining their unbeaten start to the competition in 2019-20.
But perhaps most importantly for the Norwegian, it finally put an end to a drought which has dogged his charges throughout the current year. Not since March 6 had United managed to win a competitive game away from home, when they took down Paris Saint-Germain in a famous Champions League last-16 comeback victory.
Since then it has been nothing but misery for the Reds on the road, with 232 days passing between that triumph and Thursday’s narrow win.
That winless run, spanning four draws and seven defeats, was their worst since 1979, when Dave Sexton’s men also went 11 games without joy away from home. Memories of those March celebrations in the Parc des Princes must feel like a distant memory for Solskjaer, who had yet to be named as the definitive successor to Jose Mourinho.
Downing PSG as well as United’s upturn in form following the Norwegian’s arrival finally saw him appointed permanently, only to see results change for the worse when the ink on his contract was barely dry.
A nightmare run of results led to elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona and also ensured United finished outside of the top four in the Premier League, relegating them to Europe’s second-tier club competition for 2019-20.
And while they may lead Group L, United have managed just 10 points from a possible 27 so far in the English top flight, leaving them a lowly 14th and already trailing fourth-placed Chelsea by seven.
Having ended Liverpool’s perfect start to the Premier League in their last domestic outing, the Reds will now try to build on this improvement away from home when they visit lowly Norwich on Sunday.
Partizan Belgrade v Manchester United LINE-UPS
Partizan Belgrade: Stojkovic, Nemanja Miletic, Ostojic, Strahinja Pavlovic, Urosevic, Zdjelar, Natcho, Tosic, Soumah, Asano, Umar.
Subs: Vujacic, Lazar Pavlovic, Ivanovic, Scekic, Brezancic, Filip Stevanovic, Nemanja Stevanovic.
Man Utd: Romero, Jones, Maguire, Rojo, Wan Bissaka, Garner, McTominay, Williams, Lingard, Mata, Martial.
Subs: Lindelof, Rashford, Grant, Andreas Pereira, Fred, James, Greenwood. Referee: Xavier Fernandez