David de Gea and Rio Ferdinand react to Middlesbrough's controversial equaliser

Middlesbrough’s equaliser to make it 1-1 against Manchester United in the FA Cup fourth round clash at Old Trafford was shrouded in controversy.

Substitute Duncan Watmore’s first touch got away from him before his hand brought the ball back under his spell.

The boyhood United fan crossed for another Red Devils supporter, Matt Crooks, to level the scores and send the away end wild.

It was expected that VAR would rule out the goal but Anthony Taylor was not even sent over to look at the screen.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

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David de Gea was given the night off, with Dean Henderson handed a rare start between the sticks after a January move failed to materialise.

He and former teammate Rio Ferdinand took to Twitter to react to the goal, and it is fair to say they were both unhappy with the call.

You can watch the incident below, which clawed Middlesbrough back into a game which had been largely dominated by United up to that stage.

The goal seemed to make United’s players and fans more nervous and the level of performance dropped thereafter.

The decision was obviously a poor one but United were left too exposed to a counter attack situation in a game they should have been in full control of.

It meant that a game which should have been out of sight hung in the balance for far longer than might have been expected when United were pouring forward at will at various points.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.