In a classic FA Cup tie at Old Trafford today, Manchester United advanced to the fifth round by defeating Liverpool in a 3-2 thriller.
Both sides took the lead in what was a fantastic game but in the end, it was Bruno Fernandes’ wicked free-kick that sealed the game for Manchester United.
The scoring started in the first half when Roberto Firmino’s slide-rule pass found an unmarked Mo Salah, who flicked the ball over Dean Henderson and into the United net. However, just eight minutes later, United were level.
A wonderful ball from Marcus Rashford found Mason Greenwood in acres of space, and he slotted past Alisson Becker for his first goal in 11 games.
Manchester United took the lead early in the second half, with Rashford capitalising on a defensive error to thread the ball home, but again Liverpool hit back, with Firmino setting Salah up for his second goal.
However, just as the game appeared to be heading into extra-time, substitute Fernandes won it for Manchester United. The Portuguese star arced a contentious free-kick wonderfully past Alisson, and although Liverpool tried to hit back, they couldn’t find a third goal.
With the win, Manchester United move on to play West Ham in the fifth round.
Here are five talking points from Manchester United’s 3-2 win over Liverpool.
#1 Why couldn’t last weekend’s game have been like this?
Last weekend, Liverpool faced off with Manchester United at Anfield in one of the season’s most highly anticipated Premier League games. With Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table and Liverpool – at that point – in second, it felt like there was everything to play for.
Unfortunately, the two sides ended up playing out a largely dull 0-0 draw, with only a handful of chances coming for both teams.
Fans may well have been dreading a repeat in today’s FA Cup tie, but thankfully, they need not have worried. Both Manchester United and Liverpool named strong teams, and came to Old Trafford to win. And that made for an absolutely tremendous game.
They both attacked from the go, with both teams having 14 shots on goal throughout the game, and by the end, some thunderous tackles were flying in on both sides. To be honest, referee Craig Pawson did well to only book four players given the full-blooded nature of some of the challenges on offer.
All of this raises a simple question: why did Manchester United and Liverpool not play like this last weekend? The likely answer is that while both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jurgen Klopp would like to win the FA Cup, it’s not a priority like the Premier League.
However, playing not to lose – as Manchester United and Liverpool did last week – rather than to win, simply doesn’t offer the entertainment like this kind of game did. To be frank, it’s sad.
#2 Where would Manchester United be without talisman Bruno?
Manchester United might’ve come away with a win today, but it’s definitely worth asking exactly where they’d be without Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese playmaker – who signed for United a year ago this week – once again made the difference, this time after coming off the bench.
That’s not to say that Manchester United performed badly before Bruno’s introduction. In reality, either side could’ve won this game had they taken their chances. However, it’s safe to say that though he only played about 25 minutes today, he made a ton of difference.
Prior to Bruno’s arrival, Manchester United looked dangerous at times going forward, but too often their midfielders – Donny Van De Beek, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba – failed to find the correct pass.
When the Portuguese was introduced, though, it was as if the pitch opened up for the likes of Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani.
And when he was given his chance – a free-kick won by Cavani in what was probably the only questionable call of the match from referee Craig Pawson – Fernandes came up trumps, scything the dead-ball into the net past Alisson.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are now into the fifth round of the FA Cup – and they’re also putting together an unlikely Premier League title challenge. However, quite where they’d be without their Portuguese talisman, who’s scored 26 goals and registered 16 assists since his arrival at Old Trafford – is anyone’s guess.