Manchester United and Aston Villa produced a borefest before the break and a classic cup thriller after the half-time Orange that featured six goals and ended with exuberant substitute Alejandro Garnacho setting up the Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay strikes that took Erik ten Hag’s side into the game. round of 16, where they will face Burnley.
Robin Olsen was responsible for Villa’s Fernandes goal that made it 3-2: the goalkeeper’s failed pass went straight to Garnacho and after Fernandes collected from the wing, his effort deflected in from Tyrone Mings. Then, in stoppage time, McTominay slid home from Garnacho’s sweet volley.
Of the 18-year-old Garnacho, Ten Hag said: “He has an impact with two assists, some dribbling, some running in behind but also some things he needs to improve but it’s pretty clear we’re happy with his development and performance tonight, and he can contribute to the team.Every team needs players who [him] – he can play them out and [in] the final decisions he can do the right things. He can also do the defensive things and stay disciplined.”
Ten Hag were also pleased with Marcus Rashford’s World Cup selection after he scored his eighth goal of the season. “It’s really important – and I’m really happy for all the players going to the World Cup – it’s great, the more players for us the better,” said the Dutchman.
United’s quest to avenge Sunday’s lopsided 3-1 Premier League defeat by Villa featured Anthony Martial as the attacking spearhead in his second start of an injury-plagued campaign and his early touch was sharp: twice the ball bounced in to him and twice he flicked it to a colleague.
There was evenness too in a United corner routine that saw Fernandes lay the ball short to Rashford whose cross landed on Harry Maguire’s head.
Unai Emery’s team grasped for ideas in possession and suddenly they were reversed. Fernandes’ ball to Rashford was fed to Tyrell Malacia on the overlap and his cross was headed, via a deflection, by Diogo Dalot into the roof of Olsen’s net.
The contest was a test of United’s ability to break down their opponents and Villa’s skill on the counter to expose Maguire and the rest of the back line. So it was surprising when Ludwig Augustinsson produced Villa’s best moment while setting up camp in United’s half. He won a corner on the left which Douglas Luiz looked to send straight in until McTominay headed away from under the crossbar.
A second corner followed and this time, as the delivery flicked out of the area, Ashley Young unloaded a volley that was always missing. Villa were soon back in their territory and gratefully watched Malacia clear the ball, a Fernandes backheel meant nothing and Rashford wasted a 20-yard free-kick as a goalless first half ended.
The second period could surely be less simple: this was the hope and that’s exactly what happened, as for a breathless 60 seconds Villa took the lead before United hit them back. At first, the home side thought Boubacar Kamara had handballed after he received the ball and fed Jacob Ramsey, who unlocked United’s backline with a pass that saw Ollie Watkins race forward to slot the opener past Martin Dubravka. After United’s complaints faded and they restarted, Dalot immediately released Fernandes down the right and his weighted ball was headed home by Martial.
Suddenly – and thankfully – the tie was alive, the vibrancy of the crowd turning up the volume at Old Trafford as both sides whizzed at each other in rhythm. Emery made changes, one of which, Leon Bailey, was instrumental in Villa regaining the lead. Young padded forward and floated the ball towards the back post and the forward, 90 seconds into the game, headed home. Dalot tried to clear but could only beat Dubravka.
Rashford spurned a golden chance to register United’s second equalizer by blasting wide before making good. The hapless Mings slipped and Rashford shrugged off Calum Chambers to rifle home. Mings, who failed to make Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, suffered further pain when his leg inadvertently helped Fernandes’ strike beat the hapless Olsen. In the 91st minute, McTominay made no mistake to leave the home support jubilant.
Of his World Cup call-up A a delighted Rashford said: “That was this morning [when he found out] – If you perform for United, England will be around the corner. It’s going to be a massive month for us, I’m looking forward to it.”
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