United past West Ham in FA Cup
Life is smiling on Erik ten Hag in Manchester. In the Premier League, he has brought Manchester United back to the top and last week he and his club won the prestige battle with FC Barcelona in the Europa League and the League Cup even won their first prize since 2017.
Even Sir Alex Ferguson sits in the stands with a broad smile these days. Even tonight, when his personally appointed successor, for that was David Moyes in 2013, visited the FA Cup eighth finals.
‘The Chosen One,’ now coach of West Ham United, made things tough for Ten Hag. But thanks to a goal by Alejandro Garnacho just before time, Ten Hag’s fairytale continued: 3-1 win and a spot in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
In the quarter-finals, United takes on Fulham. City rival Manchester City will be visited by Burnley, which is top of the Championship (second tier) under City icon Vincent Kompany.
Brighton &Hove Albion takes on stunt team Grimsby Town (fourth tier). The final quarterfinal is between Sheffield United and Blackburn Rovers (both second tier).
Moyes back at Old Trafford
Sacked from United within a season, Moyes was the first in a series of top coaches for whom the shoes of their illustrious predecessor Ferguson proved too big. To say that Ten Hag does fit Ferguson’s shoe would be premature. But that he can do no wrong at Old Trafford at the moment is clear.
That also seems to be the case with Wout Weghorst, who started in the starting lineup for the thirteenth time in a row. This time, though, as a focal point up front, as Casemiro, Marcus Rashford, Rafael Varane, Fred and Lisandro Martínez were all rested.
Weghorst and Malacia basic player
After five minutes, Weghorst offered a shooting chance to Marcel Sabitzer with a clever handball, but the stylish Austrian’s shot was cleverly turned away by goalkeeper Alphonse Aréola. Moments later, he Weghorst himself was close to his second goal for United when Aréola had to allow a rebound on a shot by Garnacho. Weghorst, however, was offside.
Tyrell Malacia also played from the start and played a sterling game. The former Feyenoord player was nowhere to be seen, however, when Michail Antonio was found in the deep. However, the striker pounced on De Gea.
From the ensuing corner, West Ham United had another huge chance, but Soucek worked the ball just wide. When Paqueta launched another flare towards De Gea moments later, some doubt began to creep into the hearts of the home fans.
Coach Ten Hag could not possibly be satisfied after the first half and brought on Casemiro after halftime to put things in order. However, the Brazilian midfield lord could not prevent West Ham from remaining dangerous.
Beauty Benrahma, not seen by anyone
Soucek headed toward the far post, forcing De Gea to stretch. That proved to be a warning, as moments later the visitors were suddenly up 1-0.
And how: Saïd Benrahma got the ball on the left side of the penalty area and curled it phenomenally into the far cross. Remarkably, only the spectators in the stadium saw that goal live, because just before the hit the TV signal went out.
Immediately Ten Hag intervened and brought in his base players Martínez and Rashford. Weghorst thus fell back into his familiar role as a dragging number ten, but it was Malacia who stood out the most in this phase with a couple of excellent tackles.
United got away well when Antonio once again broke through and forced De Gea into another fine save. But it was clear from the excitement at Old Trafford that the momentum was with the home club.
Casemiro appeared to head in the equalizer from a Fernandes cross, but the Brazilian was clearly offside. That turned out to be a stay of execution, as moments later Moroccan defender Nayef Aguerd headed the ball into his own goal: 1-1.
Just when the spectators had settled for extensions, the blond-haired young Argentine Garnacho provided the decision with a fine curl. Fred also made it 3-1 in injury time on a pass from Weghorst.