Manchester United came from behind late on to topple West Ham United 3-1 in the FA Cup fifth round, with Alejandro Garnacho curling in a delightful winner in the final minutes to send Erik ten Hag’s men into the quarter-finals of the competition.
The Red Devils, fresh from consecutive triumphs over Barcelona in a Europa League play-off and Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final, had some fresh faces in the starting lineup amidst the relentless fixture schedule. Club captain Harry Maguire came in fresh from his first trophy lift as captain of the club, and Scott McTominay started his first game since returning from injury.
It was a staggered first half that played out from a United perspective. Marcel Sabitzer had a drilled effort saved by Alphonse Areola in the opening stages, yet other than a few half chances, the home side looked toothless in the first forty-five.
Michail Antonio squandered a big chance one-on-one with David De Gea not long after, but the Spaniard closed down the space and denied the forward a goal three days after smashing United’s all-time clean sheet record, overtaking Peter Schmeichel with 181 clean sheets.
It was West Ham who took the lead in the 54th minute through Said Benramha who curled a fine effort beyond De Gea. It looked like Tomas Soucek had let the ball run out of play in the build-up, and many red shirts were static for the moment having assumed the ball went out, but VAR deemed it a goal. Although unconfirmed, it appeared that there was not a conclusive angle to deny The Hammers a lead.
Antonio should have doubled the lead not long afterwards, but the Jamaican bottled another big chance, this time in front of the East Stand.
Marcus Rashford and Lisandro Martinez were on as Ten Hag looked to turn the tide in the game as time ticked on.
Casemiro was off the bench even earlier at half-time, and the Brazilian was denied an equaliser reminiscent of his opener at Wembley at weekend; VAR deemed him rightfully offside after the celebrations had endured.
Nayef Aguerd headed into his own net just minutes later, though. The Moroccan defender had conceded the corner just seconds earlier before nodding home beyond Areola to give The Reds a lifeline in the 77th minute.
The leveller only enhanced United’s momentum in the final fifteen minutes, leading to the winning goal. Wout Weghorst had his effort deflected towards Garnacho, who got the ball out of his feet in acres of space before curling it home with precision on his right foot. The 90th minute goal sent Old Trafford into a frenzy.
A poor defensive error allowed Fred to increase the advantage in the 95th minute after the West Ham defender buckled under some Weghorst pressure. Fred placed it centrally beyond a diving goalkeeper to seal the win and send United through.
Final Score: Manchester United 3-1 West Ham United (Aguerd [og] 77’, Garnacho 90’, Fred 90+5’) (Benramha 54’)
Man of the match
Casemiro came on for McTominay at half-time and made a big impact, but Garnacho put in an exciting showing from the get-go on Wednesday night.
The Argentinian had a couple of chances to score, and his goal was fully deserved. What a goal it was; it dropped for him nicely and he showed his quality when it mattered most to bag his fourth goal of the season.
His direct dribbling was causing Ben Johnson problems all game at right-back and the 18-year-old had a good flow down that left-hand side alongside Tyrell Malacia.
He made the difference and Ten Hag’s faith in Garnacho came to fruition.
The bigger picture
It has been three massive wins in the space of seven days for Man United.
The work Ten Hag has done with the players has been phenomenal. No side in Europe’s top five leagues has won more games this season than United. The team have won the Carabao Cup and are still in the Europa League and FA Cup, and there is even a long shot at the Premier League title.
The best things the manager, players and fans can do is take it game by game and enjoy it. The progress is astounding.
Ten Hag proved is managerial quality again against David Moyes’ side by making in-game changes that turned the game on its head in the end.
The draw has been made for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, and it has been confirmed that United will host Fulham in the next round, meaning every game so far has been played at home. It would appear that Manchester City are the only team to look out for, but Marco Silva’s Fulham should not be underestimated. That will be the return of Andreas Pereira at Old Trafford!
The Reds go marching on!
What is next?
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Liverpool away in the Premier League on Sunday 5th March, kicking off at Anfield at 16:30 (BST).
After that, United host Real Betis in the Europa League Round of 16 the following Thursday 9th March, kicking off at The Theatre of Dreams at 20:00 (BST).