Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Bruno Fernandes revealed the tactical plan that helped Manchester United beat Liverpool in the FA Cup Fourth Round on Sunday evening.

In an energetic and entertaining game, United initially had to come from behind after Mohamed Salah opened the scoring for Liverpool. Having asserted their advantage with goals from Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford, another Salah goal made for a tense and dramatic final half-hour at an empty Old Trafford.

Bruno Fernandes came off the bench to score a late free-kick.

Solskjaer reveals key tactic in Manchester United win

Solskjaer was delighted with Fernandes’ goal, which sets up a Fifth Round fixture at home to West Ham United, but also outlined the tactical plan he made clear to his team.

“We felt if we could switch the ball early today we could attack them,” Solskjaer explained to BBC Sport, “because Liverpool defend on the front foot so we have to be quick on the ball, we did that well.”

It was evident to see. Though Fernandes’ goal was a piece of individual brilliance from a free-kick, United’s first two goals were similar in style.

Early switches of play pay off for United against Liverpool

For the first, Marcus Rashford struck a cross-field pass into Mason Greenwood’s path. The latter drove into the space left empty by Liverpool’s attacking full-back, Andy Robertson, and finished smartly. The opposite was true early in the second half when Greenwood spotted Rashford running into the vacant space deserted by Trent Alexander-Arnold. Rashford, too, finished cooly.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: Paul Pogba of Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Manager of Manchester United interact as Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool makes their way across the pitch after The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 24, 2021 in Manchester, England.
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

It was a good tactic and one which paid off handsomely.

 

As for Fernandes’ set-piece goal, Solskjaer was far from surprised.

Solskjaer: Fernandes spent 45 minutes practicing free-kicks on Saturday

“A great goal,” he said, again to BBC Sport. “When you leave him out like I did today, he stayed about 45 minutes after training yesterday shooting free kicks so I was pretty confident he could score one if he got the chance.

“He’s never happy with me when I tell him to go inside after training when he’s playing the next day so he got some practice yesterday.”

Fernandes himself also spoke about the goal, adding some further insight. The Portuguese attacking midfielder revealed that Edinson Cavani, United’s Uruguayan striker who didn’t get on the scoresheet but played well, influenced his decision as to how to take the free-kick.

Fernandes: Cavani helped me with free-kick winner in FA Cup

“I work a lot on these kind of goals,” Fernandes said.

“Free-kicks, I tried, this one was good. Edi [Cavani] before the free-kick told me ‘try a hard one on the side of the keeper’. I tried it and it went in.”

Manchester United's Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes (L) shoots to score from a free kick for their third goal during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 24, 2021. (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP)
(Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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