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Harry Maguire details Erik ten Hag’s masterplan which beat Liverpool in FA Cup epic

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Football

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Harry Maguire has opened up on how Manchester United beat Liverpool in their epic FA Cup quarter-final, hailing manager Erik ten Hag for his “brave” and “aggressive” tactics.

United twice came from behind to level the game, first late in normal time through substitute Antony and then in extra time via Marcus Rashford, before Amad Diallo’s dramatic late winner settled a breathless cup tie.

Ten Hag gambled with his substitutions, leaving only two orthodox defenders on the field as they chased the game, and the bold strategy paid off to end Liverpool’s hopes of a quadruple and keep United’s bid for silverware alive.

“We didn’t really get control of the game, so the manager told us to be that bit more aggressive,” Maguire said. “He put on an attacker and basically said, ‘let’s go man for man’.

“I was up against the striker, with the full-backs up against the wingers. We just went man for man all over the pitch. It actually worked. It enabled us to get a bit higher up the pitch, put a bit more pressure on, because there was a period in the second half when I felt like we were letting the game drift away a little.

“Credit to the manager to see and recognise that. We scored the equaliser and I’m looking across thinking he might put on a centre-back to go a bit more safe again! But no, credit, he wanted to stay aggressive and all the way thought extra time he stuck with myself and Diogo [Dalot] being the only two proper defenders on the pitch. In extra time we really pushed them back. It was brave, but bold and it worked in the end.”

Amad Diallo fires home United’s winning goal in extra time

(Getty Images)

Amad’s last-gasp winner, complete with a red card for a second bookable offence after taking his shirt off in celebration, sealed a 4-3 win that will be remembered for years to come.

“I must say, it’s got to go down as one of the FA Cup classics,” said Maguire. “I’m sure it will. The emotion in the game, chances to win it and chances to lose, obviously the disappointment of going behind in extra time from really nothing because we felt like we were in control of the game, so to concede that deflection [Harvey Elliott’s extra-time goal for Liverpool], we had to find something else to push them back. And credit to the forward lads, because they were a constant threat, especially in the later stages of the game.”

United now face Championship side Coventry City in the semi-finals at Wembley, and have 10 more Premier League games to break into the top five, which should be enough to qualify for next season’s revamped Champions League.

They are currently six points behind fifth-placed Tottenham and nine behind fourth-placed Aston Villa, albeit with a game in hand over the latter. And Maguire hopes the feelgood win over Liverpool can spark a big finish to the campaign.

“It’s obviously been a difficult season for us. The points tally in the Premier League is not too bad, but it should be a lot better. The five teams above us have accumulated more, a lot to be honest at this stage of a season. Obviously we’ve had a lot of injuries, but so have other clubs.

“To get knocked out of the Carabao Cup was disappointing and the Champions League campaign was also disappointing. We played well in the Champions League group games, but two red cards have probably cost us from going through there. So to have a good run in the FA Cup is important and it’s a huge result for us, to keep that faith that we’ve still got a chance to go and win something this season.

“It’s been a disappointing season for the fans coming off the back of the last one, which was positive, getting Champions League football and to win the [League] Cup. We wanted to push on, but it just hasn’t clicked for us in lots of aspects. The atmosphere was incredible on Sunday and it was really important to give the fans something they deserved, to go home and cheer about and smile about.”

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