MANCHESTER, England -- It is becoming typical of Manchester United's season that every high seems to come with a low.
The positive on Thursday at Old Trafford was that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team dismantled Club Brugge 5-0 on the night -- 6-1 on aggregate -- to ensure they will be in Friday's draw for the Europa League round of 16. The downside, though, is that Solskjaer is also now dealing with another significant injury, Anthony Martial the latest to be struck down.
In his place Odion Ighalo was handed his first start since his surprise deadline-day move from Shanghai Shenhua. The 30-year-old former Watford striker scored his first United goal, but there will be question marks about whether he can lead his new side through a crucial run of fixtures should Martial be sidelined for an extended period.
United play Everton, Manchester City and the next round of the Europa League before the end of March, as well as their FA Cup fifth-round tie against Derby County. It is a vital month, perhaps not make-or-break yet, but we are into the business end of the campaign.
There will, at least, be another round of the Europa League to contest, and if Solskjaer got a fright in Belgium last week, there were no such worries back in Manchester.
A frantic opening 20 minutes that saw good chances missed by both sides ended with Daniel James curling a shot toward the far post and Club Brugge centre-back Simon Deli inexplicably making a diving save despite having the insurance of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet behind him. Deli was sent off by Dutch referee Serdar Gozubuyuk after a pitch-side monitor review, and Bruno Fernandes stepped up to score his second penalty in five days. The Portuguese midfielder was fabulous throughout and is already looking like a bargain at £47 million. The goal was enough for the home fans to relax, chanting "Phelan, Phelan, where's your shorts?" as freezing rain tumbled down on United assistant Mike Phelan on the touchline.
Ighalo's first United goal and another from Scott McTominay, making his first start since Boxing Day after recovering from a knee ligament injury, followed before half-time to put the tie to bed. The Club Brugge fans, who kicked off their evening with a rendition of "We'll Never Walk Alone," were suddenly very quiet.
James, Fernandes and McTominay were given a rest in the second half in preparation for sterner tests ahead before Fred added a fourth and fifth late on. It is only the second time United have scored five goals at Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
"Very happy tonight," said Solskjaer afterward. "Obviously we're in a moment now that we can rotate a bit. Players are getting games but when you score goals and play like this there is more confidence. It was a brilliant start, right intent, we created loads of chances and when they're down to 10 men the game was more or less over."
The result extended United's run of unbeaten Europa League home games to 13 since losing to Marcelo Bielsa's Athletic Club in March 2012. It bodes well for the rest of the tournament. It's also now seven games unbeaten for Solskjaer's side, a streak that includes six clean sheets and 18 goals scored by 12 different goal scorers.
There will be concerns, though, about Martial. The Frenchman has found form with three goals in his past three games but picked up a thigh injury in training on Wednesday and is now a doubt for the trip to Goodison Park on Sunday after failing a fitness test on Thursday.
"He didn't feel right after the training yesterday, or he walked off during training and he's injured," said Solskjaer before kickoff. "So hopefully it won't be too bad but I don't really know yet how long he'll be [out]."
It is a blow. There are doubts whether Marcus Rashford will recover from a double stress fracture in his back in time to feature again this season, and Martial's absence leaves Solskjaer with just Ighalo and 18-year-old Mason Greenwood as the only recognised strikers in his squad.
Both were meant to be fringe players this season but have been thrust front and centre in United's bid for Champions League football, either through the Premier League or the Europa League. Greenwood has 11 goals already this season and Ighalo has now registered that all-important first.
"I think as a fellow striker I know how important that first goal is," Solskjaer said. "He sniffs goals, to be there where it sometimes hurts and that goal, it shows he's sharp in his head."
Solskjaer will hope there are more to come.