Bruno Fernandes decides FA Cup fourth-round tie with 78th-minute free-kick; Mohamed Salah scores twice to cancel out Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford goals but Liverpool’s woes continue; United to face West Ham in fifth round.
By Ben Grounds
Bruno Fernandes fired Manchester United into the FA Cup fifth round as his 78th-minute free-kick earned his side a 3-2 win over Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Liverpool’s troubled continued at the home of the fierce rivals; they have now failed to progress beyond the fourth round in five of their six seasons under Jurgen Klopp and the Premier League champions have recorded one win in their last seven games in all competitions.
Mohamed Salah gave the visitors the perfect start with a sublime finish (18) but Mason Greenwood levelled eight minutes later following a sweeping move.
Marcus Rashford completed the turnaround with his fourth Old Trafford goal against Liverpool (48) but Salah restored parity after running onto Roberto Firmino’s pass (58).
The stage was set for Fernandes, who settled the tie 12 minutes after his introduction with a venomous free-kick from the edge of the box to set up a fifth-round tie at home to West Ham next month.
Fernandes steals headlines in thriller
United entered the tie unbeaten in their last seven home games against Liverpool in all competitions since a 3-0 loss in March 2014. Last weekend’s stalemate failed to inspire, but Liverpool came to Old Trafford dressed in hyper turquoise, and this fourth-round tie lived up to the hype.
The clash got off to an intense, end-to-end start, with Liverpool finding the breakthrough in the 18th minute. Firmino threaded a pass between Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof to Salah, who was played onside by the latter and coolly lifted the ball over Dean Henderson.
United have won seven of nine league games having conceded the first goal, collecting 21 points from losing positions, and they made it 1-1 in the 26th minute. Greenwood had already had two half chances, failing to trouble Alisson, but his luck would change.
Paul Pogba broke up a Liverpool attack and Donny van de Beek sent a quick pass as the hosts raced forwards, with Rashford darting down the left before cutting back and sending a fine a diagonal ball over to Greenwood on the right. The teenager matched the play with his unerring finish, firing right-footed across Alisson.
With 19 FA Cup titles between them, it was clear both managers were desperate to reach round five, and the first half drew to a close with Pogba and Scott McTominay heading over presentable chances from two Shaw corners.
Shaw created three times as many chances as any other United player in the opening period but Jurgen Klopp stuck with his same starting XI for the restart – and three minutes later, his side were behind.
Shaw began the move as his throw-in was collected in midfield by Edinson Cavani, who rode the challenge of Thiago and found Greenwood. Rhys Williams failed to clear Greenwood’s first time ball, which allowed Rashford to race through and coolly turn past Alisson
Liverpool reacted well to falling behind, however, and James Milner was left holding his head in his hands after scooping over from close range.
But the 35-year-old midfielder soon helped Liverpool level as they capitalised on uncharacteristically sloppy Cavani play, with Milner leaving Firmino’s cross for Salah to sweep home.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer identified that Liverpool were in the ascendancy and duly turned to Fernandes on his bench. Twelve minutes later, Fabinho gave United a chance with the clock winding down after fouling Cavani on the edge of the box.
The Brazil international avoided a second yellow card but Fernandes would carry out the ultimate punishment. The Portugal midfielder pulled rank and buried his 28th goal for United to provide a classic FA Cup tie with the match-winning strike it deserved.