A late free-kick from substitute Bruno Fernandes sent Manchester United in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup and provided an historic victory against rivals Liverpool.
Mason Greenwood had equalised for United in the first half after Mo Salah’s opener. Assisted by Marcus Rashford, it was the elder Englishman who put United ahead. Fernandes’ 78th-minute goal restored United’s lead after a second for Salah.
Big-time Bruno off the bench
It was a free-kick position too close to the goal for a typical free-kick. So Bruno Fernandes did something different and curled it around the wall and around Alisson. It wasn’t into the top corner, but it was unsaveable for one of the country’s best goalkeepers. Off the bench, United’s best player delivered.
Marcus Rashford the playmaker
Anthony Martial replaced Rashford late on. United led for the second time in the game by that point. Rashford had been involved in the first two goals, assisting the first and scoring the second.
His own goal was excellent: a perfectly-timed run, a decent first touch and a superb finish to beat Alisson. But it was how he controlled the game, most notably from 25 minutes onwards in the game, where Rashford really impressed. He dictated things in a way more similar to Paul Pogba, pinging passes across the pitch to create chances or driving forward down the wing and opening up space.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shows tactical qualities in big game again
United’s first two goals were the same. The first saw Rashford switch it to Greenwood, charging into the space vacated by Andy Robertson. The second saw Greenwood switch it to Rashford, charging into the space left by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Rhys Williams. That’s no mistake. Solskjaer wanted United to do that and it paid off to a great extent. It’s a tactical victory for United’s manager who has led the club to a fantastic spell in the last two months.
Van de Beek and Pogba deserve credit
Van de Beek showed what he offers to United. He is an efficient playmaker who keeps the ball, dictates the tempo and offers a little bit of creativity. With those qualities, United can be a frighteningly good counter-attacking side. They can be that with Bruno Fernandes, too, but in a slightly different way. Van de Beek is somewhat unnoticeable but crucial.
Paul Pogba, meanwhile, showed his continued versatility. Although he was just off the pace in the first half, gifting away possession too often, he worked hard in central midfield. After an hour, he was moved to play at right-midfield where he drove down the flank impressively. He won all his aerial duels too. Oh, and he ducked well to avoid Fernandes’ free-kick and let it sail over his head and past Alisson.
An advert for free-to-air football
A thoroughly entertaining game that was broadcast to the nation, not in the homes of only those who can pay for Sky Sports, BT Sport or Amazon Prime. Games of this quality are an advert for football, and an inspiration to the next generation of young football fans. Even more of this will be fantastic when the Premier League is shown free-to-air in the month of February.
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