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January Review: Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Paul Pogba all had a good month despite mixed results for United

Manchester United played nine matches in January making it just as busy as December, where the same number of matches were played. United started the month with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa in the Premier League, which was a good start to the month. However, a 2-0 defeat in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup at the hands of Manchester City added some disappointment to the month. United then beat Watford 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup, earning a place in the fourth round against Liverpool. Next came a 0-0 draw against Liverpool in the Premier League, a frustrating match for both teams.

United then came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage in the Premier League, putting more pressure on Liverpool this season, which would change as the month grew on. The FA Cup clash with Liverpool was a good match for United, resulting in a 3-2 victory, reaching the fifth round of the competition this season. Following that match, a 2-1 defeat to the worst team in the Premier League, Sheffield United came, which was a disappointment for United. The month was ended with a visit to the Emirates to face Arsenal, which resulted in a 0-0 draw, ending the month in a frustrating manner.

January Statistics:

Nine matches played; five wins, two draws and two defeats. 11 Premier League points won, a place in the fourth and fifth rounds of the Emirates FA Cup. 10 goals scored, eight goals conceded – four clean sheets. United entered 2021 in good form and were looking to get through another tough month in domestic competition. They were knockout of the Carabao Cup at the semi-final stage by Manchester City but reached the fourth and the fifth rounds of the Emirates FA Cup with victories over both Watford and Liverpool. In the league, United struggled at times with a defeat to Sheffield United and draws with Liverpool and Arsenal.

1 January – Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa – Premier League

Goals: Anthony Martial 40′, Bruno Fernandes 62′; Bertrand Traore 58′

Assists: Aaron Wan-Bissaka 40′; Jack Grealish 58′

Manchester United beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford in the first Premier League match of 2021. Anthony Martial opened the scoring with a header in the 40th minute of the match (his fifth goal of the season), assisted by Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Villa then equalised in the 58th minute through Bertrand Traore, assisted by Jack Grealish. Minutes later, Paul Pogba was taken down in the box by Douglas Luiz and a penalty was given which Bruno Fernandes stepped up for, scoring his 15th goal of the season. Villa pressure United at the end of the match with United having chances to extend their lead.

6 January – Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City – Carabao Cup

Goals: John Stones 50′, Fernandinho 83′

Assists: N/A

Manchester United were beaten 2-0 by Manchester City in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford. It was a pretty even first half with United starting well but City soon took control of the match. Both teams had the ball in the back of the net in the first half of the match but none were given. It took City 50 minutes, five minutes into the second half to draw first blood on United with John Stones scoring the first goal of the game. United had chances to get back into the game but did not take them. City doubled their lead through Fernandinho in the 83rd minute, earning a place in the first final of the season. Their go-to trophy.

9 January – Manchester United 1-0 Watford – Emirates FA Cup

Goals: Scott McTominay 5′

Assists: Alex Telles 5′

Manchester United beat Watford 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford. Scott McTominay, who captained United in this match, scored the only goal of the game in the fifth minute, assisted by Alex Telles from the corner. There were a few chances throughout the match but United seemed to be out of sorts, as were the visitors. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy to see his club into the fourth round of the FA Cup with the draw for that and the fifth round being drawn on Monday evening. United got back to winning ways after being knocked out of the Carabao Cup earlier in the week. Burnley next in the Premier League.

12 January – Burnley 0-1 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Paul Pogba 71′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 71′

Manchester United beat Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor in the Premier League. It put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table. Paul Pogba scored the only goal of the match after playing the ball out to Marcus Rashford on the right with the England forward playing back to the Frenchman whose effort was slightly deflected into the back of the net. Bruno Fernandes did not have the best of matches, but played a part. Anthony Martial will be a worry, coming off injured late into added time. The positivity is that United are top of the league and deserve it.

17 January – Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League. It was a game of few credible chances. Perhaps the best opportunity was from Bruno Fernandes after United won a free-kick in the first half of the match. The ball dipped towards the top far corner, just missing the target and seeing United frustrated. Marcus Rashford had a chance in the second half with Edinson Cavani splitting away from him, Rashford having the ball and the three defensive players and being marked off the ball with Cavani unmarked and in space which could have resulted in the first goal of the game, if he had it.

20 January – Fulham 1-2 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Ademola Lookman 5′; Edinson Cavani 21′, Paul Pogba 65′

Assists: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa 5′

Manchester United beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage in the Premier League. Ademola Lookman scored the opening goal in the fifth minute as United saw themselves on the back foot from the start of the match. However, it took 16 minutes for United to get back into the match with Bruno Fernandes launching a ferocious shot on goal, hitting the inside of the post only for Fred to keep the attack in play. Edinson Cavani was the equaliser for United, scoring his fifth goal of the season for his club. Paul Pogba scored what turned into the winner for United, with a sublime finish which was good to see.

24 January – Manchester United 3-2 Liverpool – Emirates FA Cup

Goals: Mason Greenwood 26′, Marcus Rashford 48′, Bruno Fernandes 78′; Mohamed Salah 18′, 58′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 26′, Mason Greenwood 48′; Roberto Firmino 18′, 58’

Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-2 in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford. Mohamed Salah opened the scoring in the 18th minute of the match with Mason Greenwood equalising just eight minutes later. Marcus Rashford then put United ahead in the 48th minute with Salah striking once more in the 58th minute to level the score. From the bench, Bruno Fernandes found the winner from a free-kick which was such a great strike to beat Alisson for the third time in the match. This victory feels so good, not for Liverpool though. United will face West Ham United at Old Trafford in the next round.

27 January – Manchester United 1-2 Sheffield United – Premier League

Goals: Harry Maguire 64′; Kean Bryan 23′, Oliver Burke 74′

Assists: Alex Telles 64′; John Fleck 23′, John Lundstram 74′

Manchester United were beaten 2-1 by Sheffield United at Old Trafford. It was another bad day for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, who had been knocked off the top spot in the Premier League table by Manchester City on Tuesday evening. Kean Bryan opened the scoring for the Blades in the 23rd minute of the match with Oliver Burke scoring the winner in the 74th minute of the match. Harry Maguire equalised in the 64th minute of the match but in terms of inspiration, United were not up for the challenge in a dreadful evening at the Theatre of Dreams. United will need to pick up the pieces before get face Arsenal on Saturday.

30 January – Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Arsenal at the Emirates in the Premier League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the stronger team with Arsenal suffering with a few injuries. It was a game of few credible chances, something that will unnerve United, who have been playing a poor brand of football in their last two matches, resulting in a defeat and a draw. Arsenal will be the happier of thereto teams, winning four points and keeping two clean sheets against United this season. However, the gap between the two teams is still ten points, so Arsenal have a lot of work ahead of them to close the gap.

Luke Shaw – eight appearances (seven starts), 638 minutes, one MOTM award.

January was an impressive month for Luke Shaw. He made eight appearances, starting seven times, playing 638 minutes in total and winning the Man of the Match award in the 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League. Whilst it initially looked like Alex Telles would take the left-back role from Shaw earlier in the season, the English left-back has soon risen in stature to make the position his own. It is good to see him in form again, which has been ruined in the past with injury, fatigue and fitness issues. The player seems to have turned a corner at the club, which is great for both the player and the club.

Harry Maguire – nine appearances (eight starts), 765 minutes, one goal.

The Captain has been one of the most important players for the club in January. He made nine appearances, starting eight times, playing all but 45 minutes for the club in January. Harry Maguire played a total of 765 minutes during January, coming off the bench at half time against Watford in the FA Cup. He scored United’s only goal in the 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United, a former club of the defender. United kept four clean sheets in January, three of those in the Premier League, which was important for United to continue their improvement, which stuttered at the end of the month.

Paul Pogba – eight appearances (eight starts), 720 minutes, two goals and two MOTM awards.

December was a positive month for Paul Pogba, but January was something he built because of the prior month. The Frenchman missed just one match, the FA Cup victory over Watford. Pogba’s best performances in January came in the Premier League, scoring goals against Burnley and Fulham and being named the Man of the Match in both of those matches. Against Aston Villa at the start of the month, Pogba won a penalty, which Bruno Fernandes scored, enabling the Red Devils to win the match which was a great start for the club in January. Pogba will be seeking to make February a positive month for the club too.

Notable Mentions: Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Scott McTominay

Eric Bailly had a good January, in the matches that he did play in, playing a total of 315 minutes in four appearances during the month and earning one Man of the Match award for his performance against Aston Villa in which United won 2-1. Bailly could be a good partner for Harry Maguire at the club, providing he can stay fit. Alex Telles was another notable mention, making two appearances, playing a total of 172 minutes on the pitch and assisting twice. Scott McTominay was the final notable mention, making eight appearances, playing 453 minutes of football, scoring one goal and winning one Man of the Match award – against Watford.

Who is your Player of the Month for January 2021?

A look at what lies ahead in February…

United will play eight matches in February, one less than in both December and January. United will continue their efforts in the Premier League, facing Southampton (H), Everton (H), West Bromwich Albion (A), Newcastle United (H) and Chelsea (A), also vying to reach the quarter-final of the Emirates FA Cup, providing they beat West Ham United (H). Solskjaer’s side will also play their first matches in the UEFA Europa League, facing Real Sociedad both away and at home in the round of 32 stage of the competition, hoping to reach the round of 16 stage, following their group stage exit from the UEFA Champions League.

2 February – Southampton, Old Trafford – Premier League

6 February – Everton, Old Trafford – Premier League

9 February – West Ham United, Old Trafford – Emirates FA Cup

14 February – West Bromwich Albion, The Hawthorns – Premier League

18 February – Real Sociedad, Anoeta Stadium – UEFA Europa League

21 February – Newcastle United, Old Trafford – Premier League

25 February – Real Sociedad, Old Trafford – UEFA Europa League

28 February – Chelsea, Stamford Bridge – Premier League

Written by John Walker

Ratings: Greenwood, Rashford and Fernandes help United beat Liverpool; Pogba the MOTM – United march to the fifth round of the FA Cup

Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-2 in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford on Sunday evening. Mohamed Salah opened the scoring in the 18th minute of the match with Mason Greenwood equalising just eight minutes later. Marcus Rashford then put United ahead in the 48th minute with Salah striking once more in the 58th minute to level the score. From the bench, Bruno Fernandes found the winner from a free-kick which was such a great strike to beat Alisson for the third time in the match. This victory feels so good, not for Liverpool though. United will face West Ham United at Old Trafford in the next round.

Liverpool started the match on the front foot, forcing a block in the third minute of the match. Georginio Wijnaldum was set up by Mohamed Salah but the Dutchman dragged his shot into the body of Scott McTominay, which averted the danger. In the seventh minute, Marcus Rashford had the ball, looked up and sprayed the ball over the top seeking to find Edinson Cavani but Alisson raced from his line, nearly misjudges the bounce, heading the ball to safety and stopping United from taking an early lead in the match. It was not very convincing from the Liverpool goalkeeper.

There was a foul in the eighth minute with Craig Pawson allowing United to play the advantage after James Milner challenged Harry Maguire late. Mason Greenwood then forced a save out of Alisson in the tenth minute, breaking through on the right and having Rashford in support. He got behind the Andrew Robertson and decided to take it on himself, shooting from an angle with the shot kept out by the boot of Alisson. Three minutes later, Greenwood had another chance but he shot wide of the target after being found by Cavani on the right and getting the better of Milner.

Liverpool opened the scoring in the 18th minute of the match through Mohamed Salah. Wijnaldum had the time to look up and pick his pass for Roberto Firmino, who then took the ball in his stride and spotted the run of Salah in between both Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw. Salah then eyed the onrushing Dean Henderson and dinked the ball over the goalkeeper to break the deadlock in the match. It was Salah’s 112th goal for his club and his 18th in all competitions this season. Liverpool then had another shot in the 23rd minute after United were caught in possession but Henderson was easily able to gather the ball.

In the 25th minute of the match, there was a clash with Rashford and Thiago as both rose to win the ball. Rashford was caught on the back of the head but after a few seconds he was alright to get back up and continue the match. Just a minute later, United were back in the match with an equaliser through Greenwood. Paul Pogba was hacked down by Firmino on the edge of United’s penalty area but Pawson played the advantage again. Rashford, on the halfway line, clubbed a cross-field ball over the head of Milner and Greenwood confidently fired his low shot across Alisson and into the bottom corner of the net.

United could have won a penalty for United in the 28th minute with Rashford causing some problems for Liverpool and threading the ball into Donny van de Beek, who started ahead of Bruno Fernandes in this match. Alisson came out to smother any attempt but the Dutchman went down holding his ankle but no penalty was awarded. United started to get back into the match with Rashford embarrassing Thiago with a nutmeg as Pawson awarded United a free-kick which Shaw took and placed the ball invitingly in for McTominay but Rhys Williams headed it over his own crossbar.

United had another chance in the 35th minute of the match after a good set-piece from Shaw, spotting Pogba all alone on the penalty spot but his header was firmly directed over. The Frenchman should really have tested the Liverpool goalkeeper a bit more there. Liverpool then started to click into gear again with Curtis Jones winning the ball from McTominay then Milner threaded the ball past Aaron Wan-Bissaka into Robertson but Shaw was alert to the danger at the far post to guide the ball around. There was a shot from the corner, which was wide of the mark and a great relief to United, who were under the cosh at the time.

Fabinho was booked in the 42nd minute of the match after Alisson played the ball out from the back with Fabinho late on Cavani. Pawson gave a free-kick and booked the Brazilian. United then had another chance in the 43rd minute with both Shaw and Pogba standing over the free-kick. The Frenchman took the kick with his right foot, but the shot ended up missing the target, which was frustrating. United started attacking more towards the end of the half with Rashford and Van de Beek combining before Shaw overlapped but the resulting cross was palmed out by Alisson to deny United getting anything from the attack.

There were no changes by either side at the start of the second half of the match. With the match still a draw, both teams would be seeking to find a winner to avoid extra time and possible penalties. That was seemingly averted early in the half though as Rashford put United in the lead in the 48th minute of the match. Rhys Williams was the player that eventually was embarrassed. Cavani got the ball, played it to Greenwood who in turn played it to Rashford, who was level with Williams and getting the ball ahead of him, using his pace to break through and fire his shot beautifully beat Alisson and put United 2-1 up in the match.

United’s lead did not last long, but it was longer than Liverpool’s lead in the first half. Salah scored his second goal against United in this match in the 58th minute, assisted by Firmino once again. Milner took the advantage after missing only a few minutes ago, with Harry Maguire playing the ball into Cavani and Milner winning it, laying it to Firmino who fed Salah after looking to return to ball to Milner. The Egyptian shot past Henderson for the second time in the match, levelling the score once again. The away side made their first substitution minute later as Sadio Mane replaced Wijnaldum in the 62nd minute of the match.

United made a double substitution in the 66th minute of the match with Bruno Fernandes and Fred replacing Van de Beek and Greenwood. Liverpool had another chance a minute later with Firmino awake and ready to get something. However, Henderson ended up keeping the resulting shot by Salah from hitting the back of the net this time. In the 69th minute, Mane crunched into Fred, winning the ball but taking the player too. He ended up seeing the yellow card, which should have perhaps been more? Fernandes got on the ball for the first time in the 70th minute, looked for Cavani but the cross did not reach him.

Liverpool then looked to take charge of the match, having a few shots in a few minutes but failing to get anything from them. Firmino, Mane and Salah were causing United some problems at the back, but for some reason United seemed to avert the danger. In the Liverpool area, Cavani seemed to be fouled on the edge of the box after Fabinho used his arm to gain something. United were awarded a free-kick, which Fernandes lined up to take, positioning the ball to take the shot, which found the back of the net. It was Fernandes’ 16th goal of the season, which shows how much class and ability the guy has. Eat that, Liverpool.

Solskjaer made a third substitution in the 86th minute with Anthony Martial replacing Rashford, who went straight down the tunnel for some treatment, which hopefully will not be anything costing for United. Liverpool then tried to find another equaliser, after going behind for the second time in the match. Divoc Origi went down just before the 90th minute, requiring some treatment. The BBC named Paul Pogba as the Man of the Match, which is something I would have to agree with, based on what he has quietly done throughout the match. Four minutes were added at the end of the match.

Pogba received a yellow card in added time, giving Liverpool a free-kick, which could have cost United something. However, the free-kick came to nothing for Salah, who was on a hat-trick in this match. Henderson took the goal-kick, firing it up field with United keeping possession. United ran down the clock averting everything that Liverpool had, winning the match 3-2. They will face West Ham United at Old Trafford in the fifth round, which will be played between the 9 February and the 11 February with the exact date and time yet to be confirmed. Come on United!

Manchester United

26 Dean Henderson

Unlucky to concede twice against Liverpool, which perhaps showed the Merseyside club as the better team at times. He initially stood firm against Salah and made some crucial saves with the score still 2-2.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Needs to find something at right-back to become much stronger. He seemed to be an avenue for Robertson and Jones in this match. He improved int he second half. United will still be keeping an eye on some competition for him at right-back in view of a new summer signing.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Should have done more for Salah's opener, dropping back to far playing him onside. Improved with some last-ditch defending in the second half.

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5 Harry Maguire

Performed well against Liverpool. United were pestered by Salah and Firmino in the first half with Mane joining that in the second half. Led United to victory and will be pleased with that result. Onwards now.

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23 Luke Shaw

Was part of the problem for one of Salah's goals today. It happens though. Other than that, it was positive performance for the left-back. His corners were good and he got forward a lot of the time to guide his team to the victory. This is what is needed from a left-back, in all matches.

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39 Scott McTominay

Seemed to be crowded out a few times in the first half. United's midfield was a fewer man than Liverpool's three-man midfield. Had some decent chances with the score level at 1-1. He will need to perform to a better standard in matches like this going forward.

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6 Paul Pogba

MOTM for me. Did what he needed to do and did so silently and in the background. When Pogba is in this kind of form, unless he scores or assists, he will be unnoticeable. This performance with either put him in the shop window for a summer move or he will start to feel a part of something at the club.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Played a lively game with a few chances, although his decision-making needs improvement. He scored the equaliser in the 26th minute after Rashford played the ball into him and he shot across Alisson and into the far corner of the net. It was a much-needed goal for the academy graduate and an important goal for United. After scoring in the first half, he set up Rashford, who assisted for him, to put United ahead in the 48th minute. Greenwood was replaced by Fred in the 66th minute of the match.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Started well for United as he looked to take his chance to force himself into the team. He played a good game at times. Whilst he did not score or assist, he played his part. He was replaced by Fernandes in the 66th minute of the match with United needing to do more to win the match.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Did well against Liverpool. He was pushing them at times, using his pace an ability to create things for United. He got his He got his own goal in the 48th minute of the match, assisted by Greenwood.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Energised United's attack and found himself in many positions in and outside of the box. He was a target man with goals coming from other avenues, which perturbed Liverpool. He was perhaps in the wrong in the run up to Liverpool's equaliser. Other than that, he will be pleased with the performance and the result.

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Substitutes

18 Bruno Fernandes

Replaced Van de Beek 66'. Came on late in the second half with the score level at 2-2 with United needing some inspiration. Cavani won a free-kick which the Portuguese magnifico scored to win the match for United. A great cameo performance. He has had a similar impact as Cantona did at United.

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17 Fred

Replaced Greenwood 66'. Helped add something in the midfield late in the game, adding his fresh legs into the mix. He played well and did what he needed to do as United got the win and marched into the fifth round of the FA Cup.

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9 Anthony Martial

Replaced Rashford 89'. Came on in the last minute of the match. Did not really have much time on the pitch to make an impact.

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Goals: Mason Greenwood 26′, Marcus Rashford 48′, Bruno Fernandes 78′; Mohamed Salah 18′, 58′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 26′, Mason Greenwood 48′; Roberto Firmino 18′

Manchester United: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Greenwood (Fred 66′), Van de Beek (Fernandes 66′), Rashford (Martial 86′); Cavani

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Tuanzebe, Telles; Mata, James, Matic

Bookings: Victor Lindelof 89′, Paul Pogba 90+2′; Fabinho 42′, Sadio Mane 69′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Henderson, Lindelof, McTominay, Van de Beek and Cavani start against Liverpool in the FA Cup

Manchester United and Liverpool will meet for the second time this season after they were drawn against each other in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup. The match will be the first meeting at Old Trafford this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have flipped Liverpool in recent weeks, now topping the Premier League and having a six-point cushion over the Merseyside club. Jurgen Klopp has not seen his team score in the Premier League since their 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion on the 27 December 2020, which is something that will end up costing the club in their pursuit to retain the Premier League title this season.

Solskjaer’s will be confident ahead of this clash after drawing 0-0 with Liverpool at Anfield in the past week, which saw them slip from the top spot in the league earlier in the week with Leicester City and then Manchester City topping the league table. However, the 2-1 victory over Fulham saw United claim their spot at the top of the league once more, although City still have a game in hand over United, which gives the noisy neighbours an advantage. With the Premier League on hold until next week, United will be seeking to continue their success in the FA Cup this season, aiming to better the semi-final stage they reached last season.

Manchester United:

Henderson;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw;

McTominay, Pogba;

Greenwood, Van de Beek, Rashford;

Cavani

Substitutes:

De Gea; Tuanzebe, Telles; Mata, Fred, Fernandes, James, Matic; Martial

Liverpool:

Alisson;

Alexander-Arnold, R. Williams, Fabinho, Robertson;

Milner, Thiago, Wijnaldum;

Salah, Firmino, Jones

Substitutes:

Kelleher; Tsimikas, Phillips, N. Williams; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Shaqiri; Mane, Origi

United and Liverpool have played 17 times in the history of the FA Cup. United have won nine of the meetings, drawing four and losing four. United have scored a total of 25 goals with Liverpool scoring 17 goals. United have kept a total of four clean sheets against Liverpool in the oldest domestic cup tournament in England. It shows that United have, at least in the past, had the upper hand over their North West rivals which could further upset the Merseyside club this season after they have failed to score in the Premier League since their 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion on the 27 December 2020.

United last faced Liverpool in the FA Cup on the 28 January 2012, losing 2-1 to Kenny Dalglish’s side with Ji-Sung Park scoring United’s only goal and Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt scoring in the fourth round clash at Anfield. United also faced Liverpool in the season prior, meeting in the third round of the competition at Old Trafford. It was a 1-0 victory for United with Ryan Giggs scoring a penalty in the second minute of the match. United have beaten Liverpool three times in the FA Cup at Old Trafford with Liverpool winning just once at the Theatre of Dreams in the competition – and that was back on the 12 January 1921.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] Cavani to make Liverpool pay for their lack of form? Van de Beek to start against the Scouse side?

Manchester United and Liverpool will meet for the second time this season after they were drawn against each other in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup. The match will be the first meeting at Old Trafford this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have flipped Liverpool in recent weeks, now topping the Premier League and having a six-point cushion over the Merseyside club. Jurgen Klopp has not seen his team score in the Premier League since their 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion on the 27 December 2020, which is something that will end up costing the club in their pursuit to retain the Premier League title this season.

Solskjaer’s will be confident ahead of this clash after drawing 0-0 with Liverpool at Anfield in the past week, which saw them slip from the top spot in the league earlier in the week with Leicester City and then Manchester City topping the league table. However, the 2-1 victory over Fulham saw United claim their spot at the top of the league once more, although City still have a game in hand over United, which gives the noisy neighbours an advantage. With the Premier League on hold until next week, United will be seeking to continue their success in the FA Cup this season, aiming to better the semi-final stage they reached last season.

How United have faired against Liverpool in the FA Cup.

United and Liverpool have played 17 times in the history of the FA Cup. United have won nine of the meetings, drawing four and losing four. United have scored a total of 25 goals with Liverpool scoring 17 goals. United have kept a total of four clean sheets against Liverpool in the oldest domestic cup tournament in England. It shows that United have, at least in the past, had the upper hand over their North West rivals which could further upset the Merseyside club this season after they have failed to score in the Premier League since their 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion on the 27 December 2020.

United last faced Liverpool in the FA Cup on the 28 January 2012, losing 2-1 to Kenny Dalglish’s side with Ji-Sung Park scoring United’s only goal and Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt scoring in the fourth round clash at Anfield. United also faced Liverpool in the season prior, meeting in the third round of the competition at Old Trafford. It was a 1-0 victory for United with Ryan Giggs scoring a penalty in the second minute of the match. United have beaten Liverpool three times in the FA Cup at Old Trafford with Liverpool winning just once at the Theatre of Dreams in the competition – and that was back on the 12 January 1921.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Liverpool in the FA Cup at Old Trafford on Sunday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea will be seeking to start against Liverpool in the Emirates FA Cup this season despite the fact that Dean Henderson has started inn both the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup so far this season. As good as Henderson is, I think De Gea would be a better fit in this match. Henderson played twice against Liverpool whilst on loan at Sheffield United, losing 1-0 and 2-0 with Georginio Wijnaldum, Mohamed Salah and Said Mane all scoring against him. De Gea could be the difference to United going into the fifth round or losing in he fourth round. He will be up for facing Liverpool right now.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles

United’s defence have started to show a lot of improvement this season. More recently, Eric Bailly’s partnership with Harry Maguire has worked well to the point that Bailly could be considered as the main partner to the club captain this season. However, with Victor Lindelof back from a lower back injury, it is likely that he will start alongside Maguire against Liverpool. Luke Shaw has risen in stature recently, but to keep him fresh for the challenge ahead, I think Alex Telles could start ahead of him in this match with Aaron Wan-Bissaka keeping his place at right-back. This will be a big game for the United defence.

Midfield: Fred, Paul Pogba

United’s midfield is full of talent and intent and it will case any manager a headache in terms of which players are to be selected for each upcoming match. At this moment in time, both Fred and Paul Pogba are in some sort of positive form with Fred able to run throughout the match, making opposition players and ensuring that United’s midfield find some kind of positivity in creativity with those further forward. Paul Pogba has scored some stunning goals recently, which have become important for United. Despite the fact the Frenchman has been misplacing passes, he should be picked to play alongside Fred against Liverpool.

Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial

This area is the most profitable area for United in terms of goals and assists. I reckon Bruno Fernandes will start as he is a player that offers so much to this United squad. However, of late, despite his determination playing a part, he has looked tired. I feel that him sitting on the bench in this match might give United something to offer later in the game. Donny van de Beek could play in the advanced role as he will need some game time otherwise his signing would seem fruitless. Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial could flank Van de Beek and help provide something for Cavani, who will be leading the line against Liverpool.

Forwards: Edinson Cavani

The Uruguayan striker has scored five goals and two assists for his new club but for some the jury is still out as to whether he is the striker that United need. Not for me though. I have seen a lot that makes me see what Edinson Cavani offers to United. His positioning is second to none, his hold up play in the box if great and he has an eye for a goal and a head for scoring them. At this moment in time, Cavani is a much better striker than Anthony Martial and for that reason, I feel that he should be leading the line more often than the Frenchman, unless two strikers is being used, but Solskjaer uses the 4-2-3-1 formation much of the time.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Bruno Fernandes, Amad Diallo, Facundo Pellistri, Scott McTominay; Marcus Rashford

United will have nine named substitutes on the bench in the FA Cup against Liverpool and will have three opportunities (excluding the half time break) to make a maximum of five substitutions. Any unused substitutions will be available to use in extra time, should the match go that far with an additional substitution added. Dean Henderson will most likely remain on the bench with Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw likely the other three defensive players. In midfield, Juan Mata, Bruno Fernandes, Amad Diallo, Facundo Pellistri and Nemanja Matic with Marcus Rashford as the only attacking player on the bench.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Liverpool are there for the taking in the FA Cup and Manchester United should be looking to punish them

Manchester United -v- Liverpool

Emirates FA Cup

Old Trafford, Manchester

Sunday 24 January 2021, KO 17:00 GMT

Referee: Craig Pawson Assistants: Gary Beswick, Richard West

Fourth Official: Jonathan Moss

VAR: Andre Marriner Assistant VAR: Marc Perry

Manchester United and Liverpool will meet for the second time this season after they were drawn against each other in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup. The match will be the first meeting at Old Trafford this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have flipped Liverpool in recent weeks, now topping the Premier League and having a six-point cushion over the Merseyside club. Jurgen Klopp has not seen his team score in the Premier League since their 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion on the 27 December 2020, which is something that will end up costing the club in their pursuit to retain the Premier League title this season.

Solskjaer’s will be confident ahead of this clash after drawing 0-0 with Liverpool at Anfield in the past week, which saw them slip from the top spot in the league earlier in the week with Leicester City and then Manchester City topping the league table. However, the 2-1 victory over Fulham saw United claim their spot at the top of the league once more, although City still have a game in hand over United, which gives the noisy neighbours an advantage. With the Premier League on hold until next week, United will be seeking to continue their success in the FA Cup this season, aiming to better the semi-final stage they reached last season.

Manchester United: WDWWLW

Fulham 2-1 W, Liverpool 0-0 D, Burnley 1-0 W, Watford 1-0 W, Manchester City 2-0 L, Aston Villa 2-1 W

Liverpool: LDWLDD

Burnley 1-0 L, Manchester United 0-0 D, Aston Villa 4-1 W, Southampton 1-0 L, Newcastle United 0-0 D, West Bromwich Albion 1-1 D

Top Scorers: Liverpool have not scored since they beat Aston Villa in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup a few weeks ago. Mohamed Saha has 17 goals this season with Bruno Fernandes having 15.

Manchester United Goals: 15 – Bruno Fernandes, 14 – Marcus Rashford, 5 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, 4 – Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, 3 – Mason Greenwood, 2 – Daniel James, Juan Mata, 1 – Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Own Goal, Donny van de Beek, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

In their last six matches, United have won four times, drawn once and lost once. Solskjaer’s side have scored a total of six goals, conceding four goals and keeping three clean sheets. The only defeat in the last six matches was against Manchester City in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup with the draw in the Premier League between United and Liverpool. In the last round of the FA Cup, United beat Watford 1-0 at Old Trafford and they will be seeking to win once again this season to reach the fifth round of the competition, facing wither West Ham United or Doncaster Rovers at Old Trafford next month.

Liverpool Goals: 17 – Mohamed Salah, 9 – Diogo Jota, Sadio Mané, 5 – Roberto Firmino, 4 – Takumi Minamino, 3 – Curtis Jones, 2 – Georginio Wijnaldum, 1 – Marko Grujic, Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip, Divock Origi, Andrew Robertson, Xherdan Shaqiri, Virgil van Dijk

In their last six matches, Liverpool have won once, drawn three times and lost twice. Klopp’s side have scored five goals, conceding three and keeping two clean sheets. This is not great form from the reigning Premier League champions, not scoring in the league since the 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion at the end of December. Klopp’s side will be seeking to keep their FA Cup run alive this season, beating United and setting up a fifth round clash with either West Ham United or Doncaster Rovers next month. However, they will need to get over their recent hoodoo which saw them lose a lot of confidence in recent matches.

Team News: Three players ruled out for United, four ruled out for Liverpool. United will be confident with the players they have in their squad this season, which for me puts them in an advantageous position to win this clash.

Phil Jones (knee), Brandon Williams (knock) and Marcos Rojo (calf) have all been ruled out of the clash with Liverpool. Facundo Pellistri (coronavirus) was tested earlier this week and has not been stated as still out of action, so if he has returned to training and is showing good signs of fitness, he could at least be involved against Liverpool. With the news that Jesse Lingard will be removed from United’s core squad this season and Amad Diallo will be added, it could see some kind of involvement of the Ivorian, who made the permanent move from Atalanta earlier in the month. Many will be excited to see him, if now is the time for that.

Virgil van Dijk (knee), Joe Gomez (knee), Diogo Jota (knee) and Naby Keita (other) have all been ruled out of the FA Cup clash with United at Old Trafford on Sunday. Jordan Henderson (muscular) has a 50% chance of being fit for the match, which will see him undergo a late fitness test for him to be part of the travelling squad to face their North West rivals. Klopp will be hoping that his squad has enough to take on the might of United, who are full of confidence at this stage of the season, which is great to see. Liverpool need to start finding confidence in themselves to have a chance in this match. Recently, lost confidence has cost them as a team.

Predicted Starting XI: Cavani, Martial, Van de Beek and Greenwood to lead the attack against Liverpool with Solskjaer looking to reach the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup this season?

Solskjaer has stated that he could play four forwards against Liverpool, which is possible with the number of attacking players he has in his squad this season. However, I see that as a tongue-in-cheek comment which may result in many journalists over thinking what formation he could use against Liverpool in his second match against the club this season. I think Edinson Cavani could lead the attack, flanked by both Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood with Donny van de Beek playing in the advanced position, giving a slight rest to Bruno Fernandes, who could come off the bench for the club, should he be needed.

Match Prediction: There have been 17 meetings between United and Liverpool in the FA Cup with United winning nine, draw four and losing four. United have scored 25 goals, conceding 17 and keeping four clean sheets.

United and Liverpool have played 17 times in the history of the FA Cup. United have won nine of the meetings, drawing four and losing four. United have scored a total of 25 goals with Liverpool scoring 17 goals. United have kept a total of four clean sheets against Liverpool in the oldest domestic cup tournament in England. It shows that United have, at least in the past, had the upper hand over their North West rivals which could further upset the Merseyside club this season after they have failed to score in the Premier League since their 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion on the 27 December 2020.

United last faced Liverpool in the FA Cup on the 28 January 2012, losing 2-1 to Kenny Dalglish’s side with Ji-Sung Park scoring United’s only goal and Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt scoring in the fourth round clash at Anfield. United also faced Liverpool in the season prior, meeting in the third round of the competition at Old Trafford. It was a 1-0 victory for United with Ryan Giggs scoring a penalty in the second minute of the match. United have beaten Liverpool three times in the FA Cup at Old Trafford with Liverpool winning just once at the Theatre of Dreams in the competition – and that was back on the 12 January 1921.

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

Written by John Walker

Ratings: McTominay the MOTM after scoring the only goal to beat Watford; Henderson clean sheet, Telles got an assist

Manchester United beat Watford 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford on Saturday evening. Scott McTominay, who captained United in this match, scored the only goal of the game in the fifth minute, assisted by Alex Telles from the corner. There were a few chances throughout the match but United seemed to be out of sorts, as were the visitors. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy to see his club into the fourth round of the FA Cup with the draw for that and the fifth round being drawn on Monday evening. United got back to winning ways after being knocked out of the Carabao Cup earlier in the week. Burnley next in the Premier League.

United started in fine fettle against their Championship opposition and that was made even better with Scott McTominay, the captain for the evening, opening the scoring in the fifth minute of the match. Alex Telles provided the assist from a corner with McTominay rising to bounce his header into the back of the net, beating Daniel Bachmann. McTominay likes to score an early goal and this was his third this season, scoring twice against Leeds United back in December 2020 in the opening three minutes. Minutes later, Mason Greenwood was released into the box but was unable to score United’s second goal of the match.

Watford tried to get themselves back into the match and had some chances to do just that, which did not change the scoreline. In the 19th minute of the match, Juan Mata curled a good ball into the box but it was deflected for a corner, which nearly resulted in United’s second goal of the match after Telles took the corner and an unmarked Eric Bailly nearly headed into goal but was a few inches wide of the target. Ismaila Sarr, who is perhaps too good to be playing Championship football, showed his electric pace at times with the visitors looking to level the scoreline and get themselves back into the game.

There was a penalty shout in the 32nd minute of the match after Watford swung in a corner from the left and after United failed to clear the danger, the ball bounced up and his Bailly on the hand. After a brief look, VAR decided that it was not a penalty, so nothing was given – rightfully so. Watford then put more pressure on United, seeking that equaliser. Sarr was then booked in the 38th minute of the match after he pulled back Jesse Lingard, who started for the first time in ages tonight. Andre Grey and Sarr played well in trying to get Watford level, but nothing seemed to be working out for them.

Telles had a shot in the 41st minute of the match, trying his luck from distance with a low drive but it was dealt with by Bachmann. The Watford goalkeeper then made a save in the 43rd minute to deny Mata after he was sent through on goal with a great back heel from Donny van de Beek, who returned to the starting XI today. In the 45th minute, just before half time, Dean Henderson collided with Bailly, who received a head injury with the goalkeeper coming out the clear the ball. After treatment, Bailly went straight down the tunnel and was replaced by Harry Maguire.

At the end of the first half, United had 70% possession, having 13 shots on goal, five off target, four blocked and four on target, scoring one goal. At the start of the second half, Watford immediately tried to get back into the game with Joao Pedro firing over the crossbar. Two minutes later, United had another chance with Daniel James having a shot on goal but it lost power before it could cause any danger for the visitors. On the hour, Mata played a good ball into Mason Greenwood who was unmarked on the edge of the box but the forward played his shot straight into Bachmann, causing no problems at all.

Axel Tuanzebe was booked in the 65th minute for kicking the ball away after giving away a foul, which was a sign of frustration from the player, in my opinion. Solskjaer has both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial warming up and they were brought on for James and Greenwood in the 69th minute of the match. In the 72nd minute, Alex Telles was booked for pulling back Pedro to hand Watford a free-kick in a promising position but Ken Sema’s resulting set play drifted just past the far post. Watford then had a chance through Grey after Marc Navarro dinked the ball into the former but his header was off target.

Solskjaer made a fourth substitution in the 79th minute with Nemanja Matic replacing Lingard. In the 81st minute, Rashford then made a charge and burst past Ben Wilmot and got a shot away but Bachmann read the strike and made an east save to deny the United forward, who has already scored 14 goals so far this season. Watford still had plenty to do but had a chance five minutes from time but Joseph Hungbo’s strike was deflected wide of the far post. McTominay, for me is the Man of the Match in this match for the impact he had on the game, scoring the only goal to put United into the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup.

Manchester United

26 Dean Henderson

Led well in his area and commanded his line. Seemed to have injured Bailly when trying to clear the ball, which was an unfortunate accident. This was a better performance for the club than against City in the Carabao Cup. Solskjaer and Henderson will be happy with that.

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33 Brandon Williams

Played at right-back nd being right-footed, he did well in the position. Watford never really tested United throughout the match but had a few chances on goal. Williams may look to take on Wan-Bissaka in the right-back position seeing as Shaw and Telles are rivals for he left-back role.

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3 Eric Bailly

Played a good game in the first half and was starting to look like one of the best defenders in the squad this season. A clash with Henderson, who was collecting the ball, seemingly put him on the injury list again as he came off in added time at the end of the first half, replaced by Maguire.

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38 Axel Tuanzebe

Had a good defensive game, partnering Bailly in the first half and Maguire in the second. He was booked for kicking the ball away in frustration, but other than that, this was a positive performance which allowed other players to rest and also put him in contention face Burnley next week.

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27 Alex Telles

Did well against Watford. He got the assist for the opening goal in the fifth minute, scored by McTominay after taking the corner. His set-piece taking is good to see and he gets forward a lot of the time, doing well with his crosses too. Almost scored, but saw his effort fail to hit the back of the net. Good to see him back and confident after a poor period at left-back which resulted in Shaw coming back into the squad.

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39 Scott McTominay

MOTM for me. Some will disagree, but this is my opinion. He did well to score the opening goal and gave his all in midfield, playing with players that he had not played much time on the pitch with this season. He captained United against Watford and this could not have been a more fitting match for him to show what it means to play for United.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Good to see him get some time on the pitch for once this season. I think he needs to play more, but the manager and the player will have an understanding why he's been on the bench. Played in a good back heel for Mata but the Spaniard failed to score the goal.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Played for the first time in ages. Did well at times but did not look fully up to speed. Came off in the 79th minute after he was replaced by Matic.

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8 Juan Mata

Did well for United after not playing for a while. Had some good plays with the ball. Van de Beek back heeled a goos ball for him but he could not score United's second goal of the game.

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Ratings: McTominay the MOTM after scoring the only goal to beat Watford; Henderson clean sheet, Telles got an assist

Did not have the bets of matches but his playing time has been impacted this season. Used his pace at times but I feel his confidence could do with a bolstering this season. Replaced by Rashford in the 69th minute of the match.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Led the line well and had a few chances but nothing that could have seen United take charge of the match. He was replaced by Martial in the 69th minute of the match.

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Substitutes

5 Harry Maguire

Replaced Bailly 45+5'. Came on after a Bailly injury at the end of the first half. Commanded the defence well and did what he needed to do. Will be thankful of the slight rest ahead of the next match against Burnley on Tuesday.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced James 69'. Had a chance in the last eight minute of the match but it did not come off. His introduction saw more attacking play from United, but no more goals were scored.

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9 Anthony Martial

Replaced Greenwood 69'. Added some attacking threat but was unable to score in a cameo performance. United got the result they needed with just one goal scored.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced Lingard 79'. Did what he needed to do in midfield for United. Only has 11 minutes plus added time on the pitch. Will be thankful of the break and might play against Liverpool next weekend.

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Goals: Scott McTominay 5′

Assists: Alex Telles 5′

Manchester United: Henderson; Williams, Bailly (Maguire 45+5′), Tuanzebe, Telles; McTominay, Van de Beek; Lingard (Matic 79′), Mata, James (Rashford 69′); Greenwood (Martial 69′)

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka; Fred, Fernandes; Ighalo

Bookings: Axel Tuanzebe 65′, Alex Telles 72′; Ismaila Sarr 38′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Henderson, Tuanzebe, Van de Beek and Lingard start against Watford in the Emirates FA Cup

Manchester United will face Watford in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford this evening, their first match in the competition since losing to Chelsea in the semi-final of the competition last season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be looking to go back to winning ways after a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup earlier in the week, seeing them losing a fourth consecutive semi-final under Solskjaer. The manager will be hoping that his team have all they need to take on the club which was relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season.

Watford are currently sixth in the Championship this season, ten points off the top spot, currently help by Norwich City with a game in hand. New Watford manager, Xisco Munoz will be seeking to keep his team in the FA Cup this season, scalping United, which is possible in a one-off match such as this. However, United will be looking to power home with the victory booking their place in the draw for the fourth round, which will take place on Monday evening. The draw for the fifth round will also take place, giving all teams the chance to see who they could face should they progress to that stage of the competition.

Manchester United:

Henderson;

Williams, Bailly, Tuanzebe, Telles;

McTominay, Van de Beek;

Lingard, Mata, James;

Greenwood

Substitutes:

De Gea; Maguire, Wan-Bissaka; Fred, Fernandes, Matic; Martial, Rashford, Ighalo

Watford:

Bachmann;

Masina, Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Navarro;

Pedro, Highes, Chalobah, Sarr;

Zinckernagel, Gray

Substitutes:

Foster; Ngakia, Wilmot, Sema, Dalby, Barrett, Hung, Crichlow, Phillips

United and Watford have met 34 times in the history of both clubs. Eight of those matches (this one being the ninth) were played in the FA Cup or the League Cup. United have won a total of 23 times, drawing five times and losing six times. United have scored a total of 62 goals, keeping 14 clean sheets. Watford have scored a total of 30, keeping three clean sheets. Six of the matches played were in the FA Cup with United winning four, drawing once and losing once. Two matches were in the League Cup, United winning one and losing one. Solskjaer’s side will be seeking to enter the next round of the domestic competition this evening.

United last played Watford in the Premier League on the 23 February 2020, a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford with Bruno Fernandes scoring a 42nd minute penalty, Anthony Martial doubling the lead in the 58th minute and Mason Greenwood completing the victory in the 75th minute of the match. Earlier that season, Watford beat United at Vicarage Road in a match played on the 22 December 2019. It was a 2-0 defeat with Ismaïla Sarr finding the back of the net in the 50th minute of the match and Troy Deeney scoring a penalty four minutes later. Watford were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2019/20 season.

Written by John Walker

Solskjaer’s verdict on Chelsea defeat; De Gea’s questionable display and more

Manchester United feels to their first defeat in their last 20 matches when they lost 3-1 to Chelsea in the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup this season on Sunday evening at Wembley. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made some changes from the last match; a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Thursday ahead of their Premier League clash with West Ham United on Wednesday evening, which could see United rise to fourth in the table, which would be good enough to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

United conceded the first goal in added time at the end of the first half, after Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire collided heads, which saw Bailly unable to complete the match, walking off the pitch then stretchered off from the sidelines. Chelsea opened the scoring through Olivier Giroud. Immediately after the break, Mason Mount doubles Chelsea’s lead before a Maguire own goal left United too far from a comeback. However, a late penalty scored by Bruno Fernandes gave United consolation.

Solskjaer won the FA Cup as a player back in the 1998/99 season when the club won the treble, adding the Premier League and the Champions League and becoming the first English team to achieve the feat, which also say Alex Ferguson being knighted for his achievement, which will be seen as his greatest in the game. United seem a long way from the team that they were more than 20 years ago but they are heading in the right direction under the Norwegian.

After the match, Solskjaer was asked a series of questions about the performance and many other things. Talking about the performance of his team against Lampard’s Chelsea side, the disappointed Norwegian, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:

“Of course, if you lose the game you’re very disappointed. We had the first half that we expected, two teams that knew each other really well.

“We waited a bit for each other, nothing really happened until the long layoff and their goal and of course that’s disappointing that we go into half-time 1-0 down.

“We tried to make a change, a positive change, but it didn’t work.”

It is clear that United will need to do much better. A 19-match unbeaten run has now been ended and the club will have to start again, aiming to break that record, which will take the club into next season. It would have been good to finish the season unbeaten but it was not meant to be. Speaking about United needing to do better, Solskjaer stated:

“You want to win everything and we’re very disappointed in the dressing room, but we need to be better in these big games when it matters.

“We know that, we’ll have to take that into account, learn again and get ready for the next big ones. We’ve got two in five days coming up.”

During the first have against Chelsea, central defender Eric Bailly was injured then moments later collided with Harry Maguire and initially looked fine but kept falling over. This led to him being replaced by Anthony Martial. Bailly walked off the pitch but was stretchered off, suggesting that it was a serious injury. United conceded shortly after Bailly was injured. Solskjaer confirmed:

“We hope Eric will be fine. He had a cut on his head. When he and Harry were down for a long time, it was a big moment.

“Obviously the long layoff was a big test and we didn’t pass it because we lost our concentration and conceded a goal just before half-time, which was disappointing. That had a massive impact on the game.”

Maguire was also injured having a cut to his head. Are was bandaged up and was ready to continue after treatment. In the second half, he emerged without the bandage and looked fine to continue playing, which he did. Solskjaer confirmed that the player was fine, other than a cut to the eye, saying:

“Harry’s fine. He had a cut above the eye so he’ll be fine.”

Solskjaer was criticised by supporters and pundits for his team selection, changing the formation when he could have sent his team out better prepared in the same formation they have been playing in for the past month or so. It did not work for United, which was confirmed by the manager, as he said:

“We picked a team today to give us a best possible opportunity to go through in the cup and be ready for Wednesday.

“It didn’t work today. We almost got to half-time and we had the change when Eric had to come off, but that will stand us in good stead for Wednesday. I picked a team today to go through.”

Goalkeeper David De Gea made two mistakes in the first half – not making a save to deny Giroud from opening up the scoring and immediately after the break, not doing enough to prevent Mount’s strike from hitting the back of the net. The goalkeeper will know the mistakes that he committed but he has been full of them of late. Speaking about his goalkeeper, Solskjaer stated:

“Obviously everyone has to perform and everyone has a chance every time we play to stake a claim in the team.

“David knows he should have saved the second goal, but that’s done now. We’ve got to move on and look forward to Wednesday. It’s hard for a keeper to make amends apart from David making two or three fantastic saves after. 

“It’s so much easier for outfield players but David, in the rest of the game, made a few good saves. But he knows he could have saved that one.”

Brandon Williams, 19, played like a proper United player in the defeat against Chelsea. He kept his head up and continued to do what he needed to do. It has only been a week since he clashed heads and came off worse, missing the victory over Crystal Palace on Thursday and returning to the squad for Sunday’s defeat. Solskjaer, full of praise for the teenager, said:

“You saw Brandon [Williams] and the character he showed. He played a square pass into Mount [which led to their second goal] and he probably felt a bit responsible, but for the rest of the half he was absolutely outstanding.

“The kid has been out for a while and not played, and had the eye injury, but his character and personality out there was great, he kept going and kept going.”

Finally, talking about learning as a team, Solskjaer confirmed that his Sid have a lot to learn and that they are developing. Many of the best teams will learn more from a defeat than they will a victory so this came at a great time for United. The players will need to stand up and be counted in their next match. Solskjaer concluded by saying:

“What do we have to learn? We’ve got loads of things to learn as a team, but we are learning and we are developing.

“This team took a knock today confidence-wise, but let’s see how the reaction is on Wednesday.”

United will be back in action on Wednesday evening, welcoming West Ham United to the Theatre of Dreams for the final Premier League match at the stadium this season, ahead of the final league match away to Leicester City a week from today (Sunday 26 July 2020). As Leicester fell to a 3-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, their goal difference, which was higher than United’s has taken a hit. United have the same number of points as Leicester (62) with a game in hand. If they win that, it will be advantage United in the race to finish fourth, or higher.

Written by John Walker

Player Ratings: Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea; FA Cup or bust – United chose bust

Manchester United were beaten 3-1 by Chelsea in the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup at Wembley on Sunday. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not be happy with this defeat, his first in 20 matches, which is a good sign of things to come. Frank Lampard finally got his win against United, fourth time lucky. United will have to get to the bottom of this poor performance with two big mistakes for David De Gea, which is something that needs solving sooner rather than later.

It was a poor start to this FA Cup semi-final for United, who were under the cosh by Chelsea from the very start of the match. Solskjaer will be worrying about his defence after Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly collided with the former suffering a cut and having his head strapped and Bailly coming off injured, on a stretcher after he left the pitch. To add more, Olivier Giroud opened up the scoring in the 11th minute go stoppage time at the end of the first half. United will need to dig deep to find something.

Chelsea doubled their lead in the first minute of the second half with Mason Mount putting a cracking strike towards David De Gea only for him to make a touch of the ball, sending it in off the post rather than out for a corner. This has been a disastrous performance for United and the deeper they dig, the further they will have to come back into the game. Solskjaer will not be happy with what he has seen here. All the work since the restart has been undone in 46 minutes of football.

Solskjaer made a double change with Paul Pogba replacing Fred in the 55th minute and Mason Greenwood replacing Daniel James in the 56th minute with United throwing all they can to get back into the game. In the minutes before, Marcus Rashford had a good chance but his diagonal shot rolled past the far post and out of play. De Gea made a save, denying Chelsea from another goal, although the sting was taken out by the United defender, cutting down the impact of the shot.

United found themselves 3-0 down in the 74th minute after Chelsea broke forward again with Marcos Alonso beating his man on the left, rolling the ball to Antonio Rudiger. He challenged at the near post with Maguire, the ball then ricocheted off both players with Maguire getting the last touch before beating De Gea for the third time in the match. Solskjaer then send on both Odion Ighalo and Tim Fosu-Mensah for Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the 79th minute, too late to fight back?

United won a penalty in the 86th minute after Callum Hudson-Odoi clipped Martial in the box. Bruno Fernandes stepped up to take the spot kick, putting it past Willy Caballero giving United only a consolation in this FA Cup semi-final. United just did not seem determined to get anything from this match after going 1-0 down, certainly not after 2-0 or 3-0 down. The penalty was literally the only thing United have to write home about. Back to the Premier League on Wednesday.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

A terrible performance for the Spanish goalkeeper. He could have done more for Giroud's opener and definitely could have done better for Mount's goal, which put Chelsea 2-0 up over United. De Gea should be inspiring the team based on the length of time he's played for the club but today he let them down.

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2 Victor Lindelof

The Swedish Iceman let Giroud open the scoring at the end of added time and the evidence of him being the main problem in the back four is all the more plain to see.

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3 Eric Bailly

The Ivorian defender did not have the best of games against Chelsea. He came off injured after a lengthly break because of a collision of heads with Maguire, coming off on a stretcher in the end, after he had left the pitch. Not good for him, especially with all his other injuries.

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5 Harry Maguire

The captain received a head injury towards the end of the first half and carried on playing. United looked very poor during this game and needed some inspiration, which they were not getting. United conceded a third goal which was awarded as an own goal for Maguire.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

The right-back, playing as a right-wing-back was not all that energetic against Chelsea but tried to get the job done. He was replaced by Fosu-Mensah in the 79th minute of the match.

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31 Nemanja Matic

The Serbian midfield veteran showed his experience in this match but United needed more than that. The team just seemed destined to lose the game form the very start of it. One defeat in 20 matches is not all that bad really.

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17 Fred

It was a poor appearance for the Brazilian who just did not settle in the game. United were losing the game because of the weak midfield from the very start of the game. He was replaced in the 55th minute of the match by Pogba.

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33 Brandon Williams

The left-back played as a left-wing-back in this game and looked annoyed that United were out of the game at the end of the first half. He continued to run during the game and continued to keep his head high.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

The Portuguese midfielder forced a save early in the game and looked like he needed a rest. His passing was not the best, possibly because of fatigue. His missed Pogba in the game and when the Frenchman came on, it was probably too late to start something. Scored a late penalty, beating Willy Caballero this time.

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Player Ratings: Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea; FA Cup or bust – United chose bust

The Welsh winger performed well against Chelsea in the past but today, he seemed out of form and out of sorts. It has been a long season for him. Perhaps he will improve next season? Who knows. This spectacularly failed today. Solskjaer will not be impressed. He was replaced by Greenwood on the 56th minute of the match.

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10 Marcus Rashford

The England forward had a poor match against Chelsea. There was little creativity with a weaker midfield. 22 goals scored this season is a great start but it does not cover up the lack of creativity and options in this squad. Rightly replaced by Ighalo in the 79th minute of the match.

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Substitutes

9 Anthony Martial

Replaced Bailly 45+2'. The Frenchman was fouled within a minute of him coming on - nothing given. He was unable to start the magic which was needed to get United fighting in this match. Won the penalty which Fernandes scored. Nothing else to say really. It just did not work for United today.

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6 Paul Pogba

Replaced Fred 55'. The French World Cup winner should have come on much earlier than he did. The damage was already done when he came on at 2-0 down. United need serious options in this team as many players are playing above the level they should be, or so it seemed today.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Replaced James 56'. He was unable to inspire United as he has in the very recent past. It is not his fault that United have relied upon him recently. United will need to bounce back from this.

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Player Ratings: Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea; FA Cup or bust – United chose bust

Replaced Wan-Bissaka 79'. Came on late giving Wan-Bissaka some time to rest as he will likely start on Wednesday. The Dutchman did well and helped United minimise the damage, which had already been done.

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Player Ratings: Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea; FA Cup or bust – United chose bust

Replaced Rashford 79'. The Nigerian could have perhaps started this game ahead of James. When he came on, with 11 minutes to play, United just had no chance to get back into this game.

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Goals: Bruno Fernandes 86′ penalty; Olivier Giroud 45+11′, Mason Mount 46′, Harry Maguire (og) 74′

Assists: Cesar Azpilicueta 45+11′

Manchester United: De Gea; Lindelof, Bailly (Martial 45+2′), Maguire; Wan-Bissaka (Fosu-Mensah 79′), Fred (Pogba 55′), Matic, Williams; Fernandes; James (Greenwood 56′), Rashford (Ighalo 79′)

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Mata, Pereira, McTominay

Bookings: Paul Pogba 71′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Manchester United strong for Chelsea clash

Manchester United will face Chelsea in the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup at Wembley Stadium this evening. It will be the fourth time this season that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side has met Frank Lampard’s side with the Norwegian doing the double over Chelsea in the league, which was a great achievement, also knocking them out of the Carabao Cup, winning twice at Stamford Bridge, an achievement in itself.

United will get a break from the Premier League this weekend with two matches still to play and a place in the top four up for grabs. Beating Chelsea and setting up an FA Cup final will be what Solskjaer would like to do, however, achieving UEFA Champions League football will be the more important task this season. Perhaps Solskjaer will try to do both, also having the chance of another trophy – the UEFA Europa League.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Lindelof, Bailly, Maguire;

Wan-Bissaka, Fred, Matic, Williams;

Fernandes;

James, Rashford

Substitutes:

Romero; Fosu-Mensah; Pogba, Mata, Pereira, McTominay; Martial, Ighalo, Greenwood

Chelsea:

Caballero;

Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Zouma;

James, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso;

Mount, Giroud, Willian

Substitutes:

Arrizabalaga, Christensen, Abraham, Pedro, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, Pulisic, Tomori, Emerson

United and Chelsea have played 16 times in the FA Cup with United winning nine, drawing twice and losing five times. United have scored 25 goals conceding 13. United have kept seven clean sheets with Chelsea keeping six. Three of the past FA Cup matches have been finals with United winning one against Chelsea, a 4-0 victory in 1994, losing twice by 1-0 scorelines in 2007 and 2018.

This season, United have beaten Chelsea three times already winning 4-0 at Old Trafford at the start of the season with Rashford scoring a brace with Martial and James on the scoresheet also. In the Carabao Cup, United won 2-1 at Stamford Bridge with Rashford scoring both goals then in the second Premier League match, played at Stamford Bridge, United won 2-0 with Martial and Maguire scoring the goals. Here’s to a fourth victory.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW