Manchester United v Liverpool: Match Report

Manchester United dump Liverpool out of the FA Cup as Fernandes free-kick edges a five goal thriller

When Burnley claimed Liverpool’s scalp in midweek, United fans let out a collective groan at the opportunity their team had missed only days before. The Premier League champions have been in uncharacteristically poor form, and the effects of a victory over United’s fierce rivals would have been seismic.

A drab draw denied United their Premier League statement, but the FA Cup gifted them another chance to defeat their historic rivals and signal a shift in the balance of power in the North West.

From the outset it became clear that this tie would be different to the tense cage-match of last week. Both sides had brought in players eager to express themselves, and the format of the Cup eliminated the draw-will-do mentality.

Attacks flowed from end to end. United broke through the midfield block that stifled them in the early-game of the previous fixture, though resultant chances fizzled out as Mason Greenwood squandered the best of the bunch.

Evidently the deadlock was not to last long and despite the confidence of the hosts, it was Liverpool that stole the lead. In a stark reminder of the quality of Jürgen Klopp’s dangerous forwards, Roberto Firmino perfectly threaded a pass through the United defence for Mohamed Salah to lift gently over Dean Henderson.

Liverpool had broken their goal draught and taken the lead at Old Trafford. Unfortunately for the visitors, Manchester United do not relent when they concede.

Just as momentum seemed to be swinging in Liverpool’s favour, Paul Pogba won a crucial challenge outside his own box and found Marcus Rashford on the wing. Few would’ve expected the quality of pass that followed. As Bruno Fernandes watched from the bench, Rashford emulated him with a searching ball halfway across the pitch.

Meeting the ball was Greenwood, who controlled excellently with his chest before firing past Allison to restore parity between the sides.

In a game far more open than the previous, both sides had found the net in the opening 25 minutes. The first half would ultimately end with the same scoreline, though United had created the better chances and would have gone down the tunnel quietly confident for the half ahead.

Half-time: Manchester United 1 – 1 Liverpool

As it played out, the second half could not have started better for United. With only three minutes gone, Greenwood and Rashford combined in an almost exact role-reversed recreation of United’s opener.

Rashford was slipped through with a pass that Liverpool youngster Rhys Williams failed to intercept, and the young Englishman took full advantage as he finished past Allison.

United had seized the lead, but soon the hosts gave up their attacking initiative and play shifted in Liverpool’s favour. Pressurising a sloppy United defence Thiago clipped in a high ball that fell to James Milner, though the veteran midfielder could only skew his chance wide.

Encouraged by the chance, Liverpool pushed harder and soon had their equaliser. Milner played the ball wide and asked for a return pass from Firmino, only for the Brazilian to seek the second run of Salah who doubled his tally for the evening.

As the game sat poised for either team to claim, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went for the kill by introducing Bruno Fernandes and Fred at the expense of Greenwood and the rarely-seen Donny Van De Beek. At full-strength, United cancelled out Liverpool’s post-equaliser momentum.

Fabinho soon caught Edinson Cavani on the edge of his box and gave away a dangerous free-kick. Solskjaer may have had to stifle a smile as his two substitutes stood over the dead ball, though he was exuberant with joy when it was struck.

Inevitably, it was Fernandes who took the shot. The dynamic Portuguese whipped the ball towards Allison’s far post, and the Liverpool goalkeeper never reached the eventual fifth goal of the night.

Klopp was forced to urge his men forward in search of a late equaliser, and chances opened up for United to exploit the space left behind. Fernandes so almost contributed to a stunning fourth for his side, hoisting in a cross for Cavani to throw himself at – only to see his effort agonisingly come back off the post.

In the end, the miss mattered little. United had their scalp, and they had it in a dramatic fashion.

The huge Old Trafford victory not only secured FA Cup advancement, but also demonstrated just how far this side have come. United are beating the best, and they are doing it deservedly.

Full time: Manchester United 3 – 2 Liverpool

Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford

 

 

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