A fine curling effort from Antony and two goals from substitute Marcus Rashford gave Manchester United a 3-0 win over Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday night.
Erik ten Hag opted to heavily rotate his side against the League One visitors, with Anthony Elanga starting as a striker and 17-year-old Kobbie Mainoo lining up in the midfield to make his senior debut.
In spite of the rotation, United were on top in the early stages of the first half; Alejandro Garnacho was finding a lot of joy on the left wing against full-back Sean Clare in particular, and the home side were camped in Charlton’s half for the majority of the half.
The Red Devils took the lead on the opposite side to Garnacho, though, when Fred switched the play to Antony before the winger curled a peach of an effort into the top corner on his favoured left foot in the 21st minute.
Diogo Dalot made way not long after for Aaron Wan-Bissaka with an injury.
The goal set a comfort amongst Ten Hag’s men that really took the sting out of them for the remainder of the half, and even the remainder of the game on the whole. Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Marcus Rashford were all thrown on around the hour mark to spark some life into the team, with Elanga’s offside strike and Fred’s post hit from a free-kick the best that was on offer.
However, this could well have been pre-planned, with Ten Hag renowned for his meticulously planned substitutions to control the minutes of players during his time in the Old Trafford hotseat so far.
The Addicks failed to capitalise on the lethargic football and never offered up much attacking hope for the 9,000 travelling Charlton fans.
The substitutions came to pass for United, with Rashford firing twice late on to double and triple his side’s lead. The first goal from close range was neatly set up by fellow substitute and senior debutant Facundo Pellistri as the game opened up in the 90th minute, and the second was assisted by the outside of Casemiro’s boot from midfield with Rashford placing the ball high with his weaker left foot beyond goalkeeper Ashley Maynard-Brewer in the 94th minute.
Final Score: Manchester United 3-0 Charlton (Antony 21’, Rashford 90’ 90+4’)
Man of the match
Rashford will be an obvious shout with the two goals and quite literally made the difference, but just to be analytic and delve a bit deeper, Garnacho is a good shout for the Man of the Match award against Charlton.
The Argentine was the talk of the 3rd round when he came off the bench and assisted twice in the 4-2 home win over Aston Villa, but he played the full ninety today and was a sharp threat throughout.
The 18-year-old cannot be faulted for his constant direct runs, skill and pace down the left-hand side, and really gave Clare a hard time early on.
His ability to cut in and shoot on his right foot is a great asset of his, and he should have had one in that fashion on the breakaway in the second half had it not been for a good save. He had two opportunities in the first half, too.
There were a couple of times where he maybe should have passed, and the FA Youth Cup winner does seem to have that greediness in his locker, but all the best do, in fairness.
The bigger picture
The win makes it six wins from six since the resumption of club football. The Reds have scored three goals in four consecutive home games. Rashford has now scored in eight consecutive Old Trafford matches, with United into the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup. Not too shabby!
United are joined by Newcastle in the last four, with two of Southampton, Manchester City, Fulham and Nottingham Forest set to join that exclusive group. There is a real opportunity for the club to win its first trophy since 2017, but it is worth noting that United have been knocked out twice by Man City at the semi-final stage in the last three seasons.
Ten Hag did well to rotate tonight. Tom Heaton, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay and Garnacho all got a full ninety, with Wan-Bissaka, Mainoo, Fred and Elanga all getting a good amount of minutes.
Mainoo was quiet on his debut, but efficient and steady nonetheless. McTominay in particular did not look good. Elanga missed his chance somewhat at striker, though it was another goal for Antony and what a goal it was. It looks like Wan-Bissaka will be set to start in the coming games after Dalot went off injured. Pellistri came on for a debut and got an assist which was good.
On paper, the easier fixtures are now out the way. The games against Man City and Arsenal are now on the horizon. Regardless of the fact United are underdogs, the players are certainly going into the games in a good run of form and with momentum.
What is next?
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Manchester City in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Saturday 14th in the Premier League, kick off being at 12:30 (BST). After that, it should have been Arsenal, but Crystal Palace has been wedged in between, with that one kicking off at 20:00 (BST) at Selhurst Park on Wednesday 18th January.