Saved by Zlatan

blackburn-mufc-fa-17A very determined Blackburn Rovers team ran into the ground and posed all sorts of problems to the Red Devils, but they had to bow out of the FA Cup in the end, yet with their heads held high. The Red Devils should be thankful yet again to Zlatan as he delivered the winning goal in a match which looked clearly like a trap set to down them, and the quicker the men in red forget about this one and get back to usual business as in previous games the better, as their performance was well below par today and they never looked confident at all, a complete opposite of when the team was competing at different levels under the guidance of Sir Alex, where they were always ready for the challenge, and giving nightmares to the opposition.

Mourinho had earlier taken digs at his managerial rivals for not taking the FA Cup seriously, but it seems the message was not received by his players as well, as they failed to click into gear in the first half, and Blackburn with their 4-4-2 formation was giving United all sorts of problems to deal with. United were devoid of craft and their “pedestrian-pace” did not help at all in the build-up forward, while on the other hand, Blackburn were more lively, with Emnes showing his pace and technique to run riot in United’s backline. He was the one to force Romero into a fine diving save 15 minutes in, before being involved in the opener a minute later. He managed to beat Rojo outside the box before threading the ball to Graham who was darting across the box. The latter took a powerful shot towards the far post, and the ball went past Romero and into the inside netting to send the home fans in raptures, while Mourinho was seen applauding as well, may be in appreciation of the move, or as a sign of disgust as his defense was completely undone, and was holding on a thread at times. United reacted thou and managed to draw level on the 27th minute. Mkhitaryan made a run in the middle of the pitch, before finding Rashford on the move with a brilliant thru ball. The forward rounded off the keeper to slide the ball into an empty net. That was about it for the Red Devils’ first half, while Blackburn continued to look dangerous led by Emnes but the scoreline remained unchanged till halftime. As usual, Mourinho was already making his way down the tunnel while added time was being played on.

United looked more composed as the second half started, but were again in danger when Graham and Conway combined, with the latter seeing his shot saved by Romero. United were unable to up the tempo thou as they continued with their slow-paced build-up and keeping possession, and even Mourinho must have been gutted by what he was seeing. Sometimes it’s better to let go of the instructions and play with the heart instead but United were just being stubborn and kept on with the same routine. Just past the hour mark, and Zlatan and Pogba were both summoned at once by the manager to try get the team ticking again. Zlatan almost had the chance to give United the lead seconds after coming on, but Herrera’s cross-cum-shot was inches too far for him to make contact. United then had another scare at the other end, as Blackburn went close when Feeney’s cross-cum-shot saw Emnes being too short as well to reach the ball on the far post. Herrera then saw a shot saved, before the second goal finally arrived on the 75th minute. Pogba played in a delightful lofted pass from near the half-way line, and Zlatan had read the intention well as he timed his run perfectly to avoid the offside trap, and Zlatan allowed the ball to settle before unleashing a low shot into the far corner to give the keeper no chance whatsoever to keep it out. However, the game was not over yet, as Blackburn tried to battle back and nearly did so as well, as Romero fumbled Mahoney’s shot, and the rebound fell to Stokes who then found the keeper parry it again, and again the ball was not cleared as United’s backline was in shambles, and the rebound fell to Emnes, who again saw Romero save, but the ball went back to Stokes, who despite found the net, saw the goal ruled out for his offside position. Blackburn kept pushing the Red Devils, but the latter were able to hold on to the lead to avoid an unnecessary replay, and move on to the next round.