March to the arch: United's FA Cup run
With Manchester United having to beat four Premier League opponents in our five FA Cup ties so far, you can't say we didn't earn our right to fight for glory under the Wembley arch this weekend.
3RD ROUND: UNITED 3 EVERTON 1
United saw off a stubborn Everton side at Old Trafford to kickstart the FA Cup campaign. Erik ten Hag’s men were ahead after four minutes through Antony’s sliding finish from Marcus Rashford’s inviting cross. Toffees centre-back Conor Coady, though, drew the visitors level 10 minutes later.
The Reds made another lightning start in the second period, Rashford producing quick feet to bypass Seamus Coleman on the left before delivering a dangerous cross that Coady could only steer into his own net. The Blues kept themselves in the contest and Dominic Calvert-Lewin thought he had an equaliser, but it was chalked off due to an offside in the build-up.
Deep into stoppage time, Alejandro Garnacho won a penalty which Rashford calmly converted to secure our place in the fourth round.
4TH ROUND: UNITED 3 READING 1
At the next hurdle, Casemiro inspired a comfortable victory over ex-Red Paul Ince’s Reading. The first of the Brazilian’s brace was a delightful dinked finish on 54 minutes, and he quickly grabbed his second with a precise effort from range.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men when former Liverpool and Newcastle arch-antagonist Andy Carroll picked up his second yellow card, and soon after Fred cleverly flicked home a whipped cross from Bruno Fernandes for United’s third.
Reading substitute Amadou Mbengue’s bullet header with 18 minutes left took merely a smidgen of gloss off the final scoreline.
5TH ROUND: UNITED 3 WEST HAM 1
It took a late comeback victory in the next round to book a quarter-final berth. Said Benrahma’s sublime curled effort put the visiting Hammers ahead early in the second half, and David De Gea had to produce a fine save to prevent Michail Antonio making it 2-0. United’s equaliser came with less than 15 minutes left on the clock, Bruno Fernandes’s wicked corner taking a touch off Nayef Aguerd to beat his own goalkeeper.
With the prospect of an extra 30 minutes looming, Wout Weghorst’s blocked effort in stoppage time fell kindly to Alejandro Garnacho, who curled an exquisite shot inside the far corner to put United ahead. There was even time for one more, Weghorst pressuring Aguerd to steal possession and tee up Fred for a simple finish.
6TH ROUND: UNITED 3 FULHAM 1
It then required another fightback against another Premier League opponent – and with what drama, as Fulham had two players and their manager sent off in an action-packed quarter-final.
In a tight opening half, David De Gea saved well from Issa Diop and Bernd Leno kept out Marcus Rashford and Marcel Sabitzer. Lively Fulham opened the scoring five minutes into the second period, Andreas Pereira’s corner falling to Aleksandar Mitrovic, who made no mistake.
Shortly after the 70-minute mark, chaos broke loose. Jadon Sancho’s goalbound effort was handled on the line by Willian, leading to a penalty and the Brazilian’s sending off. More drama quickly ensued as Mitrovic and boss Marco Silva followed Willian down the tunnel for their protests. Bruno Fernandes kept his cool in the midst of the madness to convert the spot-kick and level proceedings. Moments later, Sabitzer’s improvised backheel from Luke Shaw’s cross made it 2-1 in front of a rowdy Stretford End. To cap it off, Bruno Fernandes added a third, finishing emphatically for his second of the game.
SEMI-FINAL: BRIGHTON 0 UNITED 0
United won 7-6 on penalties
Just one step from the final (though already at Wembley!), it took an agonising penalty shoot-out to settle a tense semi-final against high-flying Brighton. In the first half Roberto De Zerbi’s side dominated possession, but it was United who had the better chances, with Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen all going close. David De Gea, meanwhile, had to claw out Alexis Mac Allister’s free-kick.
With goalscoring opportunities hard to come by as the sides duked it out, De Gea kept out Julio Enciso and Solly March, while Seagulls keeper Robert Sanchez pulled off a stunning save to deny Marcus Rashford’s powerful effort in extra-time. After 120 minutes of football there was no breakthrough, though, meaning one thing: a penalty shoot-out.
In a high-quality display of penalty-taking, the first 12 spot-kicks were all scored. As the tension ratcheted up, though, finally March put his effort over the bar. ‘Iceman’ Victor Lindelof then stepped up… and nervelessly slotted his penalty in the top corner, confirming United’s place in a mouthwatering final against Manchester City.
The June issue of Inside United is available now in stores and online via manutd.com/magazine.