The FA Cup is Manchester United’s only chance left for silverware in the 2017-2018 season and after dispatching of Brighton and Hove, United has earned a place in the semi finals awaiting the draw for its opponent.
United was coming off the embarrassing loss to Sevilla which knocked them out of UEFA Champions League and a bounce back was necessary. The manager Jose Mourinho came under fire for the way he handled the Champions League tie, and his defensive tactics and squad selection fell into question.
Poor performances from Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba in midweek landed them on the bench for United in its tilt with Brighton. United stuck with Sergio Romero in goal as he has been solid throughout the FA Cup run.
United came out in a 4-2-3-1 as has been Mourinho’s customary formation with Lukaku as the one target forward.
United went with a centre-back pairing of Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling who were flanked by Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia on the back line. Matic who had a very strong game, paired with Scott McTominay who has featured consistently of late, formed a partnership in the defensive midfield.
Without Pogba and Sanchez in the XI, Jesse Lingard took the center attacking midfield role, and was flanked by Juan Mata on his right, and Anthony Martial on his left. Mata, Lingard and Martial were a constant threat all match long as United possessed the ball with purpose early on and throughout the match.
Always seemingly destined to score, United had a fine moment in attack in the 29th minute. Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard played a brilliant one-two combination in the box, and Mata’s attempt seemed like it would be the break through, but it fell just wide of goal.
Just 8 minutes later however, the Red Devils found the breakthrough they needed. Luke Shaw drew a defender with a run down the left flank. The left back laid one off to Nemanja Matic who played a perfect cross into the box from the top left side of the box. Romelu Lukaku timed his run perfectly, and headed home to give United the lead which they held until the half.
Brighton and Hove responded with a decent spell of possession coming and nearly scored 53rd minute. Jürgen Locadia hit a solid half volley from the top of the box that appeared destined for the botttom corner of the United goal. However, Sergio Romero did his best impression of David de Gea with a diving save, denying Albion the equalizer.
As the match wore on, it appeared that United would have to hold on to the slimmest of advantages. However, United put the game to bed in the 83rd minute.
Ashley Young stood over a free kick just outside the box. Young hit a patented curler onto the head of Matic who found the net again for United and the Devils were on their way to the semis.
All told, United had 61% of the ball and scored on both attempts on frame. Romero was solid making all 6 saves and United had the clean sheet.
United awaits the draw after Tottenham defeated Swansea in its tie with Swansea. At the moment, 6 teams remain alive in the competition as the other two quarterfinals will play tomorrow with Wigan hosting Southampton as Lesicester faces Chelsea.