(written by Cain Smith)
Manchester United proceed into the fifth round of the FA Cup following their victory against Liverpool. Paul Pogba was the Man of the Match and inspired a strong and resilient performance from The Red Devils against a weakened, yet, dangerous Liverpool side.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær decided to make five changes to his starting line-up which won at Craven Cottage on Wednesday evening. The most notable being the inclusion of Donny van de Beek for the first time since facing Watford in the same competition earlier in the month. This meant that Bruno Fernandes began the match watching on from the bench.
The beginning of the encounter had a similar feel to the stalemate at Anfield a week prior, with both sides creating half-chances but not quite having the cutting edge in the final third. Though, 18 minutes into the match, Liverpool opened the scoring following two pieces of magic from Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah.
The Brazilian received the ball in the United third and picked out a perfect pass towards Salah, who was making a run in between Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelöf, he then controlled and finished past Dean Henderson with the expertise which he has shown so often in front of goal.
It was just six minutes later when United equalised with a composed Mason Greenwood finish after an exquisite switch of play from the impressive Marcus Rashford. It was a Pogba tackle on the edge of United’s box which set this attack up and shows the defensive discipline which the Frenchman has been playing with lately.
The hosts then went into the lead minutes after the second half commenced. It was another transition which Pogba helped start and then Greenwood turned provider for Rashford this time, playing a pass in behind, which Rhys Williams should’ve intercepted. Rashford then finished his one-on-one against Alisson with great composure, slotting the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
However, Liverpool then took control of the match and it was only a matter of time until they found an equaliser. It was actually 10 minutes after United went ahead when Liverpool punished United after they lost possession attempting to play out of the intense Liverpool press; Salah came up with his and Liverpool’s second of the game with a good finish inside the box.
While it seemed that United could capitalise through attacking on their left, with Rashford and Shaw both having impressive games, the introduction of Fernandes was imminent with Liverpool controlling the majority of possession.
Then when the Portuguese playmaker stepped up to a free-kick, after Edinson Cavani was fouled on the edge of the Liverpool box, he made absolutely no mistake and found the far corner with a brilliantly struck free-kick.
It was then a largely defensive end to the match for United, although, they could’ve finished the game off when Cavani leaped up to meet a Fernandes cross, only to see his fierce header hit the woodwork.
They managed to hold on though and United recorded their first win over their rivals since Solskjaer came into the job. It was not only a devastating performance in counter-attacks by The Reds, but they also were solid in their defence for the most part, which was inspired by Pogba in the middle of the park; who made three interceptions, won two aerial duels and two ground duels according to SofaScore.
It might’ve not been three points in their attempt to continue challenging for the league title, but this win has given Manchester United the confidence that they can beat the champions, and they’re continuing to make strides towards becoming a side that can fight for trophies on all fronts.