Fernandes fires United past Liverpool in FA Cup thriller

FA Cup Fourth Round

Manchester United 3-2 Liverpool 

Substitute Bruno Fernandes’ fantastic free-kick secured Manchester United an impressive 3-2 FA Cup fourth-round victory against rivals Liverpool as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer oversaw his first triumph against Jurgen Klopp’s men.

A week on from a tense goalless Premier League draw at Anfield between the Premier League leaders and reigning champions, an empty Old Trafford hosted a thrilling encounter between these old foes.

Mohamed Salah’s fine opener was cancelled out by Mason Greenwood in an entertaining first half which was followed by a similar pulsating second period.

Marcus Rashford coolly put United ahead only for Salah to level with his second of the match, setting up a grandstand finish in which star man Fernandes came off the bench to score a super free-kick winner.

A home clash against West Ham is the reward for the Red Devils, who Solskjaer led to victory against Liverpool at the fifth time of asking – 22 years to the day after scoring the winner against them at the same stage of the competition.

Defeat made this the fifth time in six seasons that the Reds had failed to progress beyond the fourth round of the FA Cup under Klopp, whose poor start to 2021 continued as they lost on enemy territory.

The managers made five changes apiece from their midweek fixtures and traded attacks in the early stages.

Greenwood saw a shot saved by the feet of Alisson after a scampering run down the right in the 10th minute, with Liverpool soon threatening at the other end as Dean Henderson stopped a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.

Mohamed Salah scores the opening goal.

Greenwood thumped wide of the near post as the lively start to this cup tie continued, with the visitors opening the scoring after a period of promising United play.

With 18 minutes on the clock, Roberto Firmino threaded a lovely pass between Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof to Salah. The Egypt forward was played onside and lifted the ball over onrushing Henderson with skill and precision.

Curtis Jones took aim from distance and Alexander-Arnold lifted a free-kick over from a great position, but Liverpool’s hopes of pulling away were halted in the 26th minute.

Paul Pogba broke up a Liverpool attack and Donny van de Beek sent a quick pass on to Rashford, who darted down the left before cutting back and sending a fine a diagonal ball over to Greenwood. The teenager matched that play with his finish, firing a low right-footed strike past Alisson.

The equaliser swung the momentum United’s way for the remainder of the first half.

After Van de Beek saw penalty claims waved away, a string of Shaw’s corners caused problems, Pogba bent a free-kick wide after Fabinho belatedly became the first Liverpool player booked and Scott McTominay saw an effort thwarted.

Pogba tried his luck after Rashford showed quick feet in stoppage time, with United continuing in the ascendancy after the break and taking a 48th minute lead.

Rhys Williams failed to clear Greenwood’s first-time ball, which allowed Rashford to race through and coolly beat Alisson.

Marcus Rashford celebrates after putting United ahead.

Liverpool reacted well to falling behind and James Milner was left holding his head in his hands after scooping over from close range.

But the veteran midfielder soon helped the Reds level as they capitalised on uncharacteristically sloppy play by Edinson Cavani, with Milner collecting the ball and then leaving Firmino’s cross for Salah to sweep home.

Alexander-Arnold forced Henderson into action and Klopp brought on Sadio Mane, who was booked for a foul on Fred shortly after Henderson stopped Salah.

Henderson again denied the Egyptian as the visitors enjoyed a spell in control, but Fabinho gave United a chance after fouling Cavani on the edge of the box.

The Brazil international avoided a second yellow card but his foul would not go without punishment.

Fernandes, who had been brought on 12 minutes earlier, stood over the tantalisingly-positioned free-kick in the 78th minute and buried it out of Alisson’s reach.

Cavani met a clipped Fernandes cross with a powerful header off the post 10 minutes later, with Salah firing wide as Liverpool failed in their bid to level again.

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