Manchester United narrowly defeated Norwich City after a late extra-time goal from Harry Maguire. His last gasp strike booked United’s place in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley. It was not a vintage display from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side, but they are now on track for their first trophy since 2017.
Harry Maguire Sends Manchester United to FA Cup Semi-Final
A Poor First Half
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made eight changes to the team which beat Sheffield United.
Eric Bailly and Diogo Dalot joined the backline with Sergio Romero starting in goal. Fred and Scott McTominay joined the midfield with Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata out wide. Odion Ighalo was the final change, coming in for the in-form Anthony Martial.
Going in after the break, Daniel Farke would have been the much happier manager. His side’s game plan stopped United from creating and also caused them problems. Despite United’s possession, Norwich had the better goalscoring opportunities. Todd Cantwell and Jamal Lewis caused problems down the left, overloading on Diogo Dalot.
Bruno was the bright spark yet again for United, but he was unable to create any clear cut chances. Overall, United played too safe, lacking the pace to get in behind Norwich’s defence. Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata did not have the penetrative effect that Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood had against Sheffield United.
Norwich played with more purpose, tenacity, and aggression than United. They won the ball in key areas of the pitch and launched dangerous counter-attacks.
Manchester United would have counted themselves lucky that their opponents lacked confidence. The lack of a quality final ball meant Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire were not troubled too much.
Maguire blocked a Lukas Rupp shot just before the break which was the only considerable chance of the half.
An Action-Packed Second Half
Manchester United immediately came out with intent. Solskjaer’s team talk worked as within five minutes, his side took the lead.
Luke Shaw played a drilled cross into the box where the ball took a scuffle between Timm Klose and Jamal Lewis. Odion Ighalo cleverly finished on the turn as he poked the ball in as it dropped down. The urgency and precision of United’s play in the early second-half earned them their lead.
Although United took the lead, Norwich were not disheartened. Their response was impressive and they continued to cause problems. They had the better of the chances and their passing was crisper. Todd Cantwell was the danger man, consistently bringing his teammates into play and launching counter-attacks.
It was Cantwell who found the equaliser for Norwich. Manchester United’s midfield were lazy as Norwich advanced through the midfield. The lack of a defensive midfielder hindered United as Norwich’s slick passing slid through the pitch.
Cantwell received the ball around 25 yards out and hit a speculative effort into the bottom right corner. Maguire was frustrated with Sergio Romero, who should have saved the shot.
Despite Manchester United’s five, mostly attacking chances, Norwich held on. The slow, lethargic play of United meant that Norwich were relatively comfortable. Had it not been for Ben Godfrey blocking the ball from his own teammate, Norwich could have won it.
However, on 88 minutes, the game changed. Bruno Fernandes made a moment of magic when he flicked the ball into Ighalo. In on goal, Ighalo surged forward when he was brought down by Timm Klose. Ighalo was the last man, and Norwich were down to 10 for extra-time.
Captain Harry Maguire to the Rescue
Extra-time saw a simple game of attack versus defence emerge. Norwich, desperate to take the game to penalties, brought all ten, and then nine, men back. Alternatively, United sent almost everyone forward.
Though earlier in the game, United’s play could be criticised, effort levels could not be faulted in extra time. They tried every possible way of scoring. Tim Krul denied Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire and it seemed like the game was fading to a penalty shootout.
It all changed with three minutes remaining when Paul Pogba curled a ball into the box. A scramble worthy of the lower leagues then took place, with Ighalo battling defenders. The ball eventually fell to the captain Maguire, who poked home from 6 yards.
It was not a vintage display from United, but they are through. The fitness levels of some of the fringe players will come into question, and that level of performance will not reward them with Champions League football. However, in cup football, the performance is not important. The result is what matters, and United won.
They still remain in the FA Cup and Europa League, so some of the fringe players must be more reliable when next called upon.
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