United cruise comfortably past Shrewsbury Town with a 3-0 victory to set up a quarter final tie, at home, against West Ham United.
This was the first time in the clubs history that United have played Shrewsbury Town and the home team, including their fans, were excited for the occasion. They even fancied their chances of causing an upset based on United’s recent form and who can blame them? But it wasn’t to be thanks to goals from Chris Smalling (right footed volley), Juan Mata (cleverley worked free kick where three United players looked to have been offside) and Jesse Lingard (getting on the end of an Ander Herrera cross).
The win itself is of course something to be happy about as it sends United into the quarter final of the FA Cup, but it’s nothing to write home about considering the opposition. Typically, of a United under van Gaal, they controlled the game from start to finish having an 80% share of the possession in the first half and 75% possession overall. Also, United were reduced to long shots for most of the first half as they failed to find a way to break down a resilient Shrewsbury defence. Something else we have become accustomed to during the van Gaal reign. United did, however, finally make a break through late in the first half when Chris Smalling, staying up front when a cleared corner was played back toward the box, hit a right footed volley past the Shrewsbury keeper. Shortly afterwards, on the stroke of half time, Juan Mata doubled United’s lead from a free Kick that was awarded after Anthony Martial was brought down on the edge of the box when he was through on goal.
For the second half Shrewsbury altered their approach and played further up the pitch. This allowed United to play their game, bringing the attacking players into the fold with some much quicker football. And it didn’t take long for United to get their third goal to seal the win. The goal came from a counter attack that started with Romero. The United keeper released the ball quickly, picking out Herrera who touched the ball on to Mata on the left. At the edge of the box, Mata played the ball back into Herrera who hit a cross to the back post finding Lingard who hit it first time into the back of the net. United then took their foot off the pedal and played possession football very effectively to see the game out.
Despite the 3-0 scoreline it was a very average team performance. I’m finding it difficult to pick out any player who had a particularly impressive game. In my match review for the Midtjylland game on Thursday, I was very critical of Memphis. Today, however, despite a shaky start, he grew into the game and gained confidence; particularly in the second half. He showed glimpses of what he did at PSV by running at defenders, cutting in and getting shots at goal. An extra yard of pace and he will become dangerous again. He also linked up with players very well during attacking moves with some neat one-touch passing. What’s important now is that he carries that into the next game. He has a great opportunity, with Rooney out, to prove himself and build on today’s performance.
Another player I enjoyed watching was Daley Blind. He makes things happen. Plenty of times tonight he was able to pick out a pass from deep, finding the forward players and at the same time taking several Shrewsbury players out of the game.
Andreas Pereira also made a positive impact coming on as a substitute just after the hour mark. His positioning was on point, making sure he found space off the ball to receive a pass. When he was in possession he moved the ball quickly. He proves a nightmare for defenders with his pass-and-move football which is something United need more of.
So, United did what was expected of them and have progressed to the quarter final of the FA Cup. But the pressure is still on Louis van Gaal with the focus now on the second leg of the Europa League tie at home to Midtylland. The danish team bring to Old Trafford a 2-1 advantage, but United could progress with 1-0 victory having scored an away goal in the first leg. As with tonight’s game, United will be fully expected to win this 2nd leg with the real test being the game against Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday.
What did you make of tonight’s game? Did any players stand out to you? Was the performance good enough? Let me know in the comments below!
Paul’s player ratings – Shrewsbury V United
Romero (6) Kept a clean sheet but was rarely called upon.
Borthwick-Jackson (6) Played the long ball that led to Chris Smalling’s goal but was generally quiet.
Smalling (7) Scored the opening goal and won the majority of aerial battles.
Blind (7) Showed great vision picking out long ground passes into the forward players.
Varela (6) Fairly quiet for most of the game.
Herrera (7) Helped to control the united midfield and provided an assist for Lingard’s goal.
Schneiderlin (6) Helped protect the defense on the rare occasion he needed to.
Lingard (6) Was quiet for most of the game despite scoring.
Mata (7) Scored the free kick and played his part in the build up to Lingard’s goal.
Memphis (6) Poor start to game but grew in confidence in the 2nd half linking up well with other players.
Martial (6) Was isolated as a lone striker with several defenders around him.
Riley (6) Made his debut as a sub an wasn’t afraid to run at defenders.
Keane (6) Came on for Martial, hit the post, then left the field after just 4 minutes after picking up a groin injury.
Pereira (7) Proved a nuisance for the Shrewsbury defenders with his quick movement.
You can also watch The United Stand’s live match reaction with Mark Goldbridge by clicking here or watching below: