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FA CUP: Rashford and Greenwood step up, but Fernandes remains Man Utd’s go-to match-winner

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The Portugal international’s superb free-kick proved the winning goal as the Red Devils beat Liverpool in the FA Cup fourth round

As Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford combined for Manchester United’s second goal against Liverpool on Sunday Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was all smiles in the home dugout.

Not only had his team gone ahead at Old Trafford, but his homegrown attackers had proven him right.

Ahead of kick-off, the Norwegian had been left to defend the form of his front three, with Rashford, Greenwood and Anthony Martial having managed just a solitary goal between them in all competitions in January – and that came on New Year’s Day.

But against Jurgen Klopp’s side it was, for the most part, Rashford and Greenwood who ran the show, striking fear into the Liverpool defence every time they picked up the ball in wide areas.

That second goal, scored by Rashford after running onto Greenwood’s through-ball, was the second such time they had combined to find the net following Mohamed Salah’s opener.

United equalised after Rashford played an inch-perfect cross-field pass over the head of James Milner into the path of the onrushing Greenwood, who scored for the first time in 11 games to end the longest drought of his short career.

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And yet while the England duo provided the spark United required against an improved Liverpool, it was left to a familiar match-winner to settle the FA Cup fourth-round tie.

Bruno Fernandes rarely gets left on the bench by Solskjaer, and even when he does he is usually summoned to provide something special before full-time.


Introduced with the score at 2-2 after Salah had netted his second of the game, it was left to the Portugal international to provide the game’s defining moment.

Seven days ago, Fernandes came within an inch of breaking the deadlock between these two teams when they met at Anfield in the Premier League, his 20-yard free-kick whistling narrowly past Alisson Becker’s right-hand post.

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Here he went the other way from a similar distance, beating the Brazil goalkeeper low to his left with superb strike to set up a fifth-round clash with West Ham in just over two weeks’ time.

For all the plaudits Fernandes has received during his first year in English football, there have been some who have questioned whether he does enough in the “big” games against United’s rivals at the top of the table.

His effort here, though, will likely silence those critics for a while.

Solskjaer, of course, knows all about Fernandes’s match-winning capabilities, and as such it will be the displays from Rashford and Greenwood that pleased him the most.

Rashford in particular caused Trent Alexander-Arnold all sorts of problems down the United left as he worked well with Luke Shaw to overwhelm the Liverpool right-back.


Shaw, meanwhile, was again impressive going forward, and with Aaron Wan-Bissaka struggling to offer much on the opposite flank, it was left to the ex-Southampton defender to provide attacking impetus from full-back.

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Wan-Bissaka’s reluctance to get forward left Greenwood to plough a lone furrow on the right, but the teenager was a constant threat, and on another day might have had more than the one goal were it not for a strong save from Alisson with the score at 0-0.

“Mason composed himself really well for the first goal it was a very good finish, same for Marcus. Very pleased with the two of them,” Solskjaer said post-match, though he will be hopeful the knee injury that forced Greenwood off in the second half is not serious.

Elsewhere there were again excellent performances from Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani, with the goalscorers from Wednesday’s win over Fulham again stepping up and showing their experience to help United’s young guns get over the line.

It was Fernandes, though, who provided the game’s decisive moment. It almost always falls to him.

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