Bruno Fernandes’ superb 78th-minute free-kick gave Manchester United victory in a thrilling FA Cup tie with old rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Liverpool led a fantastic contest through Mohamed Salah, who then equalised after Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford had struck for the hosts either side of the break.
But in a game which had everything last week’s drab stalemate between this pair at Anfield lacked, Fernandes came off the bench to have the final word after Fabinho had fouled Edinson Cavani on the edge of the area.
Fernandes might have been slightly off the pace in recent games but when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed his £47m inspiration to come up with another special moment, the Portuguese delivered, bending his shot round the wall and beyond Allison’s reach.
The victory earns United a home meeting with an in-form West Ham side managed by former boss David Moyes in the fifth round.
But the search for form goes on for Liverpool, whose only win in seven games since that seven-goal hammering of Crystal Palace came against Aston Villa’s kids in the last round, and who have a meeting with Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham looming on Thursday.
Fernandes the matchwinner, Rashford shines
It was not quite the ending Solskjaer served up when he won a previous fourth-round meeting between these sides but, as in 1999, they had to come from behind.
And while Fernandes applied the devastating finish, that goal should not be allowed to overshadow Rashford’s contribution to United’s victory.
So much has been said about the England forward as a social crusader it is sometimes easy to forget he also needs to be judged as a footballer.
At only 23, he is still a long way off his prime but he is developing into an outstanding forward, with vision to match his speed and finishing ability.
The pass that created Greenwood’s equaliser was superb. Taking possession just inside his own half, Rashford delivered a 60-yard pass with such accuracy all Greenwood needed to do was take one touch to control with his chest before drilling low into the far corner.
Rashford’s raw pace put Liverpool’s defence under constant stress and the delicate touch that took him past Rhys Williams by the touchline in a move that ended with Paul Pogba curling wide was sensational.
And then there was his goal, which needed a perfectly-timed run to go beyond the Liverpool defence and reach Greenwood’s through ball, and then a cool head to apply the finish.
At that point, it seemed United had the game under control. It did not quite work out that way and once again, Fernandes, who has won four Premier League player of the month awards out of the seven he has been eligible for since leaving Sporting Lisbon less than 12 months ago, underlined his credentials as English football’s most influential player at present.
Salah gives Liverpool hope of revival
Salah’s effort was the first time Liverpool had been ahead at Old Trafford since January 2017, since when Liverpool have won both the Champions League and Premier League, a clear indication that whatever issues Jurgen Klopp is wrestling with at the moment, they are not insurmountable.
The finish for the striker’s 18th goal of the season did not hint at a lack of confidence as he raced on to Roberto Firmino’s precise through ball, having escaped the attentions of Victor Lindelof, and lifted his shot beyond the reach of Dean Henderson.
Evidently, what Klopp needs is to find a solution in defence. Williams was shaky and at fault for Rashford’s goal, while Fabinho was exposed by United in this game and Cavani exploited the Brazilian’s defensive inexperience to earn the free-kick that won the game.
Even so, after Salah equalised from close range after United had lost possession to James Milner and never recovered their position after working their way up-field from a short goal-kick, the visitors did have chances to win it themselves.
But Dean Henderson saved from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Salah before Fernandes struck – so Liverpool’s wait for a first FA Cup win since 1921 at Old Trafford, and Jurgen Klopp’s for a first win at United full stop, goes on.
Manchester United are next in action against Sheffield United in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Wednesday, 27 January (20:15GMT). Liverpool play at Tottenham on Thursday, 28 January (20:00GMT).
Liverpool’s unhappy hunting ground – the stats
- Manchester United have eliminated Liverpool from the FA Cup proper for the 10th time; in the competition’s history, only Liverpool themselves (12 v Everton) have knocked a particular side out more times (including finals).
- Liverpool have won just one of their past 15 matches at Old Trafford in all competitions (D4 L10), and are winless in their last eight at the ground (D4 L4).
- Manchester United have won each of their past eight home games in the FA Cup; only from 1908 to 1912 have they had a better winning run on home soil in the competition (9 games).
- Liverpool are the first reigning Premier League champion to be eliminated from the FA Cup as early as the fourth round since Manchester City in 2014-15.
- Liverpool have lost back-to-back games in all competitions for the first time since March 2020.
- Roberto Firmino has assisted Mohamed Salah for 18 goals in all competitions for Liverpool, the most any player has set up another for the Reds under Jurgen Klopp. Since they first played together in 2017-18, this is the most one player has assisted another for all Premier League sides in all competitions.
- Mason Greenwood scored his first goal for Man Utd in 11 appearances in all competitions, ending his longest run of games without a goal for the club. Aged 19 years and 115 days, he was the youngest Man Utd player to score against Liverpool since Wayne Rooney in January 2005 in the Premier League (19y 83d).
- Marcus Rashford has scored more goals at Old Trafford against Liverpool than he has against any other opponent on home soil for Manchester United (4).
- Since his Man Utd debut in February 2020, Bruno Fernandes has scored more goals than any other player for Premier League clubs (28).
- No player has scored more goals for Premier League clubs in all competitions this season than Salah for Liverpool (19, level with Harry Kane).