Manchester United beat West Ham (finally) by a 1-0 score to advance to the FA Cup Quarterfinals, after a hellish slog of a game. They had the better of the possession, but struggled mightily to create chances after another poor outing from Donny Van De Beek.
United sent out three of their usual back four in front of Dean Henderson in goal, with Alex Telles replacing Luke Shaw, and sported a Fred-Matic defensive screen behind Donny Van De Beek at the no. 10. A Rashford-Martial-Greenwood front 3 capped the formation, and showed an intent by Solskjaer to rebuild some of the chemistry between the three last season, as well as perhaps get them each firing again for an important part of the season.
The opening minutes were relatively uneventful. Manchester United had the most possession, but failed to create anything exciting or meaningful. Matic and Fred meant that the midfield was prepared to sustain possession, and it certainly seemed that United were in for an evening of attempting to breakdown the opposition.
Around the 12th minute Martial had a sight of goal, but was blocked by Angelo Ogbonna. Some patient build up, and Greenwood crossing the field to get involved with link-up play, saw the front three send their no. 9 through on goal. Ogbonna was down for some time after the potential goal-saving challenge, and had to be assisted off the pitch. He caught the wrong end of both Martial and Fabianski after kicking the ball away, and unfortunately had to be replaced by
Soon after the first chance the game began to liven up. West Ham were down to ten men while waiting for Issa Diop to replace Ogbonna, and Greenwood nearly took advantage, only to be denied by another block by the Hammers defense. Matic and Rashford added more shots to the mix, but United’s possession soon became bogged down around the edge of the West Ham box. One of a handful of corners was nearly turned into the goal by Lindelof’s deflected header, but Fabianski pushed it onto the post with a brilliant diving save.
United’s midfield play in the first half was good enough to help create chances and keep possession, but there did seem a lack of chemistry, and perhaps forward thinking, Fred played a few wayward passes and Van De Beek continued to provide good attacking movement without much of the link-up from his teammates.
There was another injury stoppage a few minutes before half-time after a clash of heads between Issa Diop and Martial. The FA recently passed a protocol providing 2 additional substitutions for concussion related injuries, but both Diop and Martial were cleared to continue. A relatively dull first half finished 0-0.
Snow began to fall as both teams prepared for the restart, and Ben Johnson and Ryan Fredericks came on at half time for West Ham. the change in shape from David Moyes meant that three of their subs had been used, including a delayed concussion substitute for Issa Diop, who had earlier replaced the injured Ogbonna.
In the 52nd minute Rashford had a point-blank range chance, but Fabianski smartly closed down as Rashford attempted to bring down a deflected shot and place it past the keeper. United’s play indicated that despite the change of shape by Moyes they would continue to be the team dictating most of the game, albeit with only intermittent sights of goal.
As play went on in the second half chances became fewer and far between. Lindelof nearly handed West Ham a chance through on Henderson’s goal, but recovered in time. Solskjaer, seeing the need to make a change with just 15 minutes of the 90 left, brought on Bruno and McTominay for Van De Beek and Matic respectively. The intensity picked up a bit, and Bruno nearly set up a chance in his first push forward, but Greenwood’s ball towards Martial in a dangerous area was blocked by Dawson.
A final change with 5 minutes to go brought Cavani on for Greenwood. Though the team had maintained control of the game their inability to make any meaningful chances in that time forced the manager’s hand to bring on the big guns. However, the lack of goal threats continued in the dying minutes, and the game went to extra time at 0-0.
Solskjaer brought on Brandon Williams and Luke Shaw for extra time, and United immediately settled back into their possession in West Ham’s half of the pitch. United finally broke through after a counter attack mid-way through the first period of extra time. Luke Shaw kickstarted things with a nice tackle at the back, and Martial and Bruno were off to the races. Bruno attempted to play it to Cavani, but it bounced to Rashford who calmly laid it into the path of a surging Scott McTominay. It was the Scotsman’s sixth goal in his last 11 games.
There were some scary moments in the second period to finally test Dean Henderson, but to no avail for West Ham. United are through to the FA Cup quarterfinals for a sixth year in a row, campaigning for likely their last shot at silverware this season.